July 10, 2017

That news media is unpopular these days is commonplace knowledge. But a new survey from Pew Research quantifies just how deep the dislike is running.

Pew found:

– Overall 63 percent of responders thought national news media has a negative effect “on how things are going in the country,” compared to 28 percent positive.

– Among Republicans, or Independents leaning Republican, only 10 percent thought the news media was a positive force compared to 85 percent who rated it as a negative.

– The news media did not fare all that well with Democrats either, where 44 percent were positive versus 46 percent negative.  Nonetheless, that was a big shift from a year ago when only 33 percent rated media a positive force.

There was also a split by age with those Democrats over 50 rating the news media much more positively (59 percent) than younger adults (33 percent)

– News media was least appreciated among five institutions Pew asked about (the others were churches and religious organizations, colleges and universities, labor unions, and banks and other financial institutions).

The survey also found a sharp partisan divide in opinion of colleges and universities with Republican views swinging abruptly negative over the last two years.

The results were based on a survey of more than 2,500 adults completed June 8 to 18.

The design of the survey allowed those responding to define “national news media” as they wished. Broadcast news shows, the three cable networks, NPR, the Associated Press and national newspapers and their websites all presumably factored into the responses.

On a day when the News Media Alliance has asked for an anti-trust exemption to negotiate collectively with Google and Facebook, the results are especially discouraging.

In my experience elected officials, Republicans included, complain about coverage they don’t like, but they also appreciate the media’s role in democracy and usefulness in getting their views out.

I spoke several years ago at an unofficial workshop on the business troubles of the news industry sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff (D.-Cal.) and attended by Republican Mike Pence, a supporter of a strong media presence despite his own conservative positions on issues.

That position appears not to have much of any traction, though, among Republican voters.  Rather their negative assessment comes perilously close to President Trump’s formulation earlier this year that national news media should be considered an “enemy of the people.”


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Rick Edmonds is media business analyst for the Poynter Institute where he has done research and writing for the last fifteen years. His commentary on…
Rick Edmonds

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