September 23, 2011

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.

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Julie Moos ( has been Director of Poynter Online and Poynter Publications since 2009. Previously, she was Editor of Poynter Online (2007-2009) and Poynter Publications…
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