Pew: 75% of Americans say journalists can’t get their facts straight

Pew
Americans trust local news organizations more than any other source — including national news orgs, government and business. But that’s not saying much.

Only one-quarter of those surveyed say news orgs get the facts right, a new low since 1985 when the question was first asked. Two-thirds (66 percent) say stories are often inaccurate, a new high. And nearly three-quarters of Americans believe that journalists try to cover up their mistakes, rather than admit them.

While Republicans have long held negative views of the media, Democrats and independents are increasingly critical of it.

The survey finds that the growth in negative attitudes toward the news media in recent years in several key areas has come among Democrats and independents. … In 2007, 43% of Democrats and 56% of independents said stories were often inaccurate. Since then, the percentage of Democrats expressing skepticism about the accuracy of news reports has increased by 21 points to 64%, and the percentage of independents saying this has grown by 10 points. Republican views have held fairly steady: 69% see stories as often inaccurate, little changed from four years ago (63%). …

Even on issues where there continue to be substantial partisan differences, such as in views of political bias and whether the media is too critical of America, the gaps have narrowed. … Three-quarters of Republicans (76%) say news organizations are politically biased, a view shared by 54% of Democrats. …

Four years ago, Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to view the news media as too critical of America (63% vs. 23%). But in the current survey, far fewer Republicans (49%) say this, while the proportion of Democrats that see the press as too critical of America has grown eight points to 31%. …

For the first time in a Pew Research Center survey, as many say that news organizations hurt democracy (42%) as protect democracy (42%).

Americans rate more highly the particular news sources they use. And they continue to get their news first from television, then the Internet, newspapers and radio. About a quarter get news through social networks. Most interesting, almost three-quarters (73 percent) of those who do say they “mostly just get the same news and information they would get elsewhere. Just 27% say the news they get over social networking sites is different than the news they get elsewhere.”

Taken together, the findings indicate negative opinions about media are higher than ever, Pew shows.

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • Anonymous

    Having a journalist make a hash of the first interview I ever gave, and having an editor put words in the mouths of interviews I wrote, I think my rating is 80% of reporting lacks basis in facts.

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Hi, Kent. Good thought. Researchers found an effect like the one you describe; when respondents thought about media, cable news was top of mind (especially CNN & Fox). That certainly could have affected their ratings. You can see the results here: http://people-press.org/2011/09/22/press-widely-criticized-but-trusted-more-than-other-institutions/ –Julie

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kent-M-Ford/584484231 Kent M. Ford

    It would be interesting, before asking “do you trust the media?” to ask, what media do you use, specifically.
    With the growth of trash-talk radio and Fox “news,” it’s no surprise that people’s trust in the “media” has fallen.
    There are some excellent news sources out there. People who are genuinely interested in getting good reporting can find it if they look around a little. It does exist in many forms in many places.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kent-M-Ford/584484231 Kent M. Ford

    It would be interesting, before asking “do you trust the media?” to ask, what media do you use, specifically.
    With the growth of trash-talk radio and Fox “news,” it’s no surprise that people’s trust in the “media” has fallen.
    There are some excellent news sources out there. People who are genuinely interested in getting good reporting can find it if they look around a little. It does exist in many forms in many places.

  • Anonymous

    Effective journalists will ask a lot of pointed questions. Sometimes they fail to do this of PR people as well as of public figures. It amazed me to observe how media always gave (now retired) Gen. David Petraeus a pass.The commander of two failed wars never once, in my memory, directly answered a media question in a way that didn’t serve his purposes. And media never pressed.In these cases, it’s almost as if the interviewer is more interested in cultivating a source than in getting the truth – or at least a credible response,

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1381945373 Lloyd Gaarder

    One positive note: Weather forecasting is getting better. With some exceptions. E.g.: Hurricane Irene was treated like a Baby Jessica story.

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Good question. They don’t distinguish. Here’s the full questionnaire and results so you can see what was asked & the distribution of answers: http://ow.ly/6DgTt –Julie

  • Anonymous

    Apparently the survey ignores the overlapping of two news sources: newspapers, and the Internet (where nearly all newspapers can be read.) Which category do online newspaper readers fall into?

  • http://twitter.com/ScottKellum Scott Kellum

    South Park “Quest for Ratings” explains it all. There are no incentives to report the facts. Instead every story is dramatized to hold the viewers attention through the advertising. Every time I watch the news they have some annoying hook about something in my home that can kill me, then at the end of the news hour it ends up being about some poorly done study on the effects of fluoride in the drinking water. I find myself going to the BBC and C-SPAN to find out what is actually going on.

  • Anonymous

    A better poll might be this: Does the public know what a fact is? Too often story angles are interpreted as facts.

  • Anonymous

    A better poll might be this: Does the public know what a fact is? Too often story angles are interpreted as facts.