It should come as no surprise that Americans are now more divided than ever when it comes to the sources they rely on for their news. However, new polling shows that a frightening number of both Democrats and Republicans have lost their trust for news media as a whole.
According to a Pew Research Center poll released this week, only 34 percent of Democrats,11 percent of Republicans, and 15 percent of independents said they trust “a lot” the information they receive from national media organizations. And for local news, the trust level is not much better: only 36 percent of Democrats said they trust local media “a lot,” while merely 24 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of independents said the same.
While distrust of the media clearly runs rampant across the political spectrum, the reasons for this remain unclear. Other data collected in the study — including Americans’ opinions of the role of the media, media bias, and the President’s relationship with the media — may provide some clues, however.
According to the same poll, 9 in 10 Democrats say they favor the media taking on a watchdog role in order to keep politicians in line. This is in sharp contrast to the opinion of Republicans, among whom only 4 in 10 agree.
Data collected by the Pew Research Center since 1985 shows that Republicans are more likely to favor a watchdog approach during Democratic presidencies, and vice versa. However, the difference between Republicans’ and Democrats’ opinion on the matter has never been as high as it is today — a staggering 47-point gap.
As recently as January 2016, during the Obama presidency, 74 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans favored a watchdog role — only a 3-point gap. And even during the height of George W. Bush’s presidency, the gap between Democrats and Republicans on this question only rose to 28 points — still 19 points lower than today.
Supporters of both parties also have a major disagreement over news media bias. When asked if news organizations favor one side, 87 percent of Republicans said ‘yes’ while only 53 percent of Democrats agreed — a 34-point gap. This is fairly unsurprising, given President Trump’s frequently voiced disdain for the media.
One thing both Republicans and Democrats do mostly agree on, according to another Pew Research Study, is that President Trump and the media are not getting along. Only 15 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Republicans think that the relationship between the President and the press corps is healthy. Furthermore, 7 in 10 Americans believe that this unhealthy relationship interferes with access to important political news.
While both the reasons for these opinions as well as a concrete solution to the problem are unclear, and likely differ depending on party affiliation, it should startle journalists that such a large majority of Americans are distrustful of the media. And given their hostile relationship to President Trump, it seems unlikely this problem will be going away anytime soon.
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