Pew: About a quarter of Americans say journalists contribute little to society


27 percent of Americans say journalists contribute little or nothing to society’s well being, according to a study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The percentage of Americans who say journalists contribute a lot to society has shrunk since 2009. The trend is particularly notable among women, 29 percent of whom said journalists contribute a lot. In 2009, 46 percent of women held high opinions of journalists.

Lawyers are still held in less regard, though.

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.

  • KLynn13

    Interpreted another way, about 70% of those surveyed think journalists contribute some (42%) or a lot (28%) to society’s well being. As a former researcher, now small town newspaper editor, I can say data is not in the eyes of the beholder, it’s in the eyes of the interpreter. I also wonder if people put the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Chris Matthews in the same category as journalists, which they are decidedly not.

    Funny, I don’t see politicians on the list…or perhaps they ranked so low they just didn’t make the top 10?

  • Matthias Giger

    I think this problem should worry a society as much as the bad image of journalism. In a few years China will have more academics than there are young people in Europe.

  • Matthias Giger

    Well, as long as there is a balance between the left and right it’s not a severe threat for democracy, even though it would be better to have more independent journalists. Is the impact in the US that strong the ones writing the checks have?

  • craigvn

    Only possible if you are 100% independent. Most large media organisations have bias depending on who is writing the checks and what is in it for them.

  • Matthias Giger

    Sounds rather fatal to me. Is it really that bad? Maybe then journalist should think about ways to become more unbiased.

  • craigvn

    I don’t think people would prefer that, they want journalism to confirm their already held biases. It’s just there are always multiple sides to a story so any article that confirms someone else’s bias but not yours be seen as good by them and not by you. So virtually impossible for journos to get above 50% rating.

  • craigvn

    Reason is simple, because the public believe that at least 50% of the media is made up rubbish, depending on their political persuasion, left or right. What they don’t know is that it is all made up by both sides.

  • Chuck-U Farly

    The problem with journalists today is that they are not doing their job. All we are getting from our so called News is watered down dribble and in some cases propaganda. None of it is telling us what we need to know and some of it is just plain destructive.

    We need to demand from all New (term used loosely) to stop with the CR-P and do your job!

  • jskdn

    Could it be that people would prefer to have journalists that did more actual journalism, that is giving people the accurate information they need to be effective citizens and navigate the complexities of life today? I think good journalism is a very valuable contribution to society and that the respondents in the poll are justified regarding their sentiments about the current state of the profession.

  • Mark Graban

    Who are the 8% who think doctors contribute “nothing” to society? Or the 9% who say teachers contribute “nothing?” Yikes.

  • King-Stanley-Krauter

    Journalists would get more respect if they communicated more effectively.

    Because they are always writing about today’s most important facts, journalists are distracting voters from remembering yesterday’s most important facts. This is one of the main reasons why the pre-recession reportage on subprime mortgage fraud and the housing bubble was ignored by politicians and voters. Another reason is that most voters don’t take notes when they read a newspaper or listen to a news broadcast.


    This failure to communicate could be largely overcome if journalists were willing to produce an annual one week review of events and conditions like a teacher would for a summer class of students who flunked their regular classes. Then voters could attend an annual town hall meeting for an entire country via their state and local newspapers. Which would work like the report cards that teachers use for rewarding and punishing students. And I think most voters would enjoy using a report card for evaluating their politicians.


    But the annual review of the year’s most important facts would also make journalists more popular because they will have made it possible for voters to do a better job by making voters feel more responsible. A new kind of investigative journalism could even be done so the next crisis won’t be ignored. And the next crisis. Which would also make journalists more popular. But journalists are more interested in communicating like an entertainer instead of a teacher. Which is why my comments are going to be ignored.

  • Chris Herz

    A suggestion: Change the designation from journalist to stenographer.

  • SFMH57

    *Everyone* in or outside of news — via any medium, of any kind — should be alarmed by this. At the same time, can I say that I thought that thanks to the headline I figured it would be worse?

  • JTFloore

    shrug. well, 25 percent of all americans think prez obama was not born in the u.s., according to a 4/21/11 cbs poll. so what does that tell us about the 27 percent negative view of journalists in this pew poll?

  • Matthias Giger

    Now the journalists shold ask why that is. That would be an interesting question. And maybe what the media consumption profile of those 27 percent is. So is it just an excuse for not reading quality newspapers or are there no more quality newspapers anymore?