Few Americans say they believe news reporting to be credible, according to a new survey released by the Polling Institute at Saint Leo University. A large percentage (86.4%) of those polled say news media have their own political and policy positions and attempt to influence public opinion. Just under half (49.7%) rate the media’s coverage of the 2016 presidential election cycle as “good or very good,” while another 43.7 percent said it has been “poor or very poor” (6.7% surveyed said they were “unsure”).
Of those surveyed, 22.4 percent say they believe “all or most” print, broadcast or online stories. Out of 1,001 adults, only 2.9 percent say they believe “all” reporting.
While traditional news outlets struggle with ratings, circulation and viewership, many people are receiving their news via social media platforms.
“Most people are getting their political news from Facebook,” said Dr. Kenny Embry, Saint Leo University associate professor of communication management, in a news release. “And people are looking at the Twitter battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.”
Embry described some Americans as “accidental political consumers” on social media sites. “They do not go looking for political news on Facebook, but they can get caught up in friends’ conversations about political issues.”
The Saint Leo communications educator added that the Internet is like an “echo chamber.” For example, Facebook algorithms will find people with similar points of view and their items will post in users’ newsfeeds. This can reduce exposure to different viewpoints and ideas, Embry pointed out.
Poll results indicate likely voters consider the rise and success of Donald Trump to be mostly a “media phenomenon,” with 64.7% of likely U.S. voters saying they strongly and somewhat agree.
“Voters are recognizing that Donald Trump is a media powerhouse,” Embry said.
Poll respondents think that news media have an obligation to fact-check candidate statements and positions, with 82.7% somewhat or strongly agreeing. But the question of whose “facts” to use comes into question—by a large margin, Americans polled say they see media bias in favor of liberals (51.9 percent) and/or in favor of conservatives (20 percent).
The Saint Leo poll, conducted online June 10-16, looked at views of news media as well as the coverage of the 2016 election cycle. All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The poll sampled opinion of 1,001 adults and has a plus or minus 3.0 percent margin of error.
Source: Saint Leo University; edited by Richard Carufel