Sunday, September 13, 2009

60% of Americans Say Press is Inaccurate, Biased

Pew Center graphic

The latest Pew Center survey finds that a significant majority of Americans think the press not trustworthy. This is the lowest rating given the press since Pew started measuring in 1985.

Is press reporting accurate? No. 63% of Americans find that news organizations do not generally get the facts straight–an increase of 29% since 1985 when only 34% thought the press often inaccurate.

Does the press care about the truth and try to correct mistakes? No. 70% believe the press tries to cover up its mistakes–an increase of 15% since 1985 when 55% thought the press covered up rather than admitted mistakes.

Is the press politically biased? Yes. 60% say the press is politically biased. 50% find it a liberal bias; only 22% think it a conservative bias.

One of the big disconnects in the poll is the breakdown of the number of Americans who say their main source of national and international news is cable news. 22% report they rely on CNN, 19% Fox News, and 6% MSNBC.

The latest cable news ratings report shows Fox with about 3 million prime time viewers. CNN has 800,000. MSNBC has 1.2 million viewers.

Fox has roughly 3 times the number of viewers as MSNBC. Thus Fox’s 19% and MSNBC’s 6% ratings track with their viewer numbers. But, CNN’s 800,000 viewers are only a fraction of Fox’s total and significantly less than MSNBC’s total. That 22% actually use CNN as their major national and international news source seems out of line with reality. The actual figure based on viewership totals should be closer to 5%.

It’s hard to assess what the reason for the gross overstatement in favor of CNN is. The poll lists 37% of its respondents as Independents, 36% as Democrats, and 26% Republicans. Perhaps Pew has weighted its findings too heavily toward Independents and Democrats. If so, those who think the press is inaccurate and biased toward liberals may be much higher than this poll indicates.

No comments: