The talented number-crunching statistical wonks at Gallup are saying 86% of respondents to a recent “American Views” poll believe the media is biased. No real surprise. Also not shocking: Respondents saw only a fraction of bias in their go-to news outlet, yet 69% felt other outlets were extremely biased. What the study also tells us is the Fourth Estate is in a downward spiral in public opinion and legitimacy.
During the Obama and Trump presidencies, Americans’ perceptions of bias in the way news stories are delivered increased by 25%. And who hasn’t heard the increasingly cacophonous chants of “Fake News,” the clever twist on words “Faux News” instead of Fox News, and “CNN Sucks”?
And it is no fault but their own.
The Knight Foundation – a non-profit that seeks to promote quality journalism, among other endeavors – is the underwriter of the “American Views” report: a months-long study with well over 20,000 respondents. And a shout out to the foundation for its approach: Each household mailed a survey found a crisp one-dollar bill as an incentive with a pre-paid postage return envelope. Genius.
The group studied the information and concluded:
“Americans’ views on the media have been negative for quite some time but have become slightly more so over the past few years. Americans perceive more — often political — bias in the news media and suspect it intentionally pushes a particular perspective. With a highly fragmented news ecosystem, the public faces real challenges sorting out what is ‘real’ from ‘fake news.’”
The Great Fake Out
Americans – self-identifying as Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – firmly believe the media is attempting to hoodwink the electorate. An alarming 74% think media conglomerate owners sit in hush-hush meetings and decide how to cover the news. Another 54% are certain that inaccuracies are purposely reported, and – in a year fraught with both elections and pandemics – 28% flat out say that reporters make up stories to get ratings and follow a personal bias.
That gives Knight Foundation Senior VP Sam Gill a case of the chills: “Most Americans have lost confidence in the media to deliver the news objectively. This is corrosive for our democracy.” Yes, but the days of Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, and Tim Russert have long passed.
America is watching and waiting …
Time Will Tell
The saving grace found in the survey results is the sheer fact that Americans believe journalism and media are vital to a free society. They also understand the role of providing accurate news coverage (no more hoaxing) and that holding those in power accountable for their actions (no more Epstein interview cover-ups) is their utmost responsibility.
Perhaps the legacy media have also fed on this survey and are digesting accordingly. America is watching and waiting to put well-deserved faith back into the deliverers of the daily news – or to power off altogether in the next few months for good.
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.