Only 1 in 5 Americans believe journalists are “friendly” toward religion

The Washington Times | Pew | Maynard
19 percent of Americans feel like “reporters and the news media” are “friendly” to religion, a Pew study finds. 38 percent of the respondents thought journalists were “neutral”; 35 percent said they were “unfriendly.”

The survey, published Wednesday, was conducted on landline and cell phones in March among 1,503 adults.

The “unfriendly” figure has stayed pretty consistent since 2003, while friendliness has gone up five points since 2009. “Not many headlines, it seems, are inspired by the Creator these days,” Jennifer Harper writes in The Washington Times.

Nadra Kareem Nittle says journalists aren’t representing evangelicals well by painting them as white and conservative. Journalists, she writes, must “quickly adjust coverage to include all evangelical Christians or risk giving an unfair advantage to candidates supported by the largely conservative, white evangelicals.”

Nittle’s piece suggests the term “evangelical” is straining under the weight of groups laying claim to it. She’s right, of course, that evangelicals are not monolithic. Still, white evangelicals are a large and remarkably coherent group, culturally and politically. Maybe reporters who are friendly to religion could employ a couple of test questions to make sure they know who they’re talking to: “Do you own any Switchfoot albums released after 2007,” maybe, or “Does your youth pastor own a kilt?”

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.

  • Dan Bailey

    This just in: Only 1 in 5 Americans believe journalists are “friendly” toward belief in elves, fairies.


  • Poynter

    Thanks for raising that question. It is an excellent one. We noted something similar recently in our coverage of a different Pew study ( In that case, the meaning of “very often” was left open to interpretation. We will keep an eye on this and consider how we can address it when reporting findings like this. –Julie Moos, Director of Poynter Online

  • Anonymous

    I can see the appeal of focusing on this question but it’s a good example of why Pew’s surveys leave you wondering what they actually reveal.

    For instance, what do people consider “friendly” and “unfriendly” in religious coverage?

    That could mean so many different things to different people.  This is a repeated problem with Pew’s survey that are rarely addressed by the media.  Which makes me wonder if journalists just glaze over when they get research results and take it at face value or are just being “friendly” towards “pseudoscience.”

    It seems like the vaguest questions Pew reports are also the ones that get the most coverage.

    What’s up with that?

  • Anonymous

    This is the disconnect:  To the extent that journalists live by a discipline of verifying things, religion–which is all about beliefs, not verification–is one of those things that gets (or should get) scrutiny.  A lot of religious folk (and I won’t say all, to avoid monolithic terms) don’t like to have their beliefs questioned or scrutinized.

  • Gary

    It’s true.

  • Anonymous

    that’s certainly a sweeping statement and something of a stereotype to boot.

  • Gary

    Journalists are extremely hostile to white evangelicals.