The Pew Research Center for People and the Press has been surveying American adults since 1985 about their views of the news media.
A new comprehensive report, incorporating results up to and including field surveys conducted in 2011, finds that negative opinions about the performance of news media are higher than ever on nine of twelve key measures studied.
Here are some sobering stats from this year’s consumer pulse:
~66% of respondents believe that news stories are often inaccurate
~77% think that news organizations tend to favor one side over another politically
~80% believe that news organizations are influenced by powerful people and organizations
The findings on the accuracy of news reporting are particularly striking. As few as four years ago, ~39% of respondents felt that news organizations “mostly get the facts straight” while ~53% believed that the news stories were “often inaccurate.”
Today’s those numbers look more depressing: Only ~25% say that news organizations tend to get the facts straight, while ~66% contend that news stories are often inaccurate.
[Of course, when it comes to respondents’ own preferred news outlets, the figures don’t look nearly as dismal. In fact, nearly two thirds of the respondents believe their preferred news sources get the facts mostly correct.]
Who does the public see as the leading “news media” these days? Cable TV organizations clearly lead in the rankings, with network news now pushed down the list:
~43% named CNN as a “news organization”
~39% named Fox News
~18% named NBC News
~16% named ABC News
~12% named CBS News
~12% named MSNBC
~10% named local TV news
It’s been a long fall for CBS News in particular, which was once considered the ace news broadcast network in the United States.
In general terms, who do people trust most as a source of news? The answer may be surprising to some: Top-ranked are local news organizations:
Local news organizations: ~69% of people have “a lot” or “some” trust
National news organizations: ~59%
State government: ~51%
Presidential administration: ~50%
Federal government agencies: ~44%
Business corporations: ~41%
U.S. Congress: ~37%
Political candidates: ~29%
And as far as where people go for news, TV and the Internet continue to be the top two sources. But consider how those rankings have changed. Five years ago, TV was cited by 74% of survey respondents as one of the two top news sources … but that figure has now declined to ~66%.
As for the Internet, it’s grown from ~24% saying it’s a top-two source for news in 2007, to ~43% today.
Meanwhile, newspapers are staying on the decline … so that today, only ~31% of respondents place them among the two top sources of news. Newspapers continue to have their partisans among the over-65 age segment, but younger than this, it’s just a lost cause.
But there’s one bright spot for newspapers: They continue to be recognized as a leading source of local news. This helps explain why many small-town and local papers have been better able to navigate the choppy waters of newspaper publishing better than their big-city counterparts.
There are many more interesting findings outlined in the latest Pew news organization survey. For more details, click here.