Public questions news media accuracy, fairness; continues to value TV news, survey says

The faith Americans put in the accuracy of the news media has reached a two-decade low, and their perception of media fairness has plummeted, according to research findings released Sept. 13 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

Less than a third (29 percent) of those polled said the news media is accurate, compared to 63 percent who view news stories as often being inaccurate, according to the results. The findings compare to 55 percent who said news stories were accurate and 34 percent who said they were inaccurate in 1985 when the first survey in this series was taken.

Despite today’s overall lack of confidence, the majority of the public continues to look upon traditional news media, including local TV news, newspapers and network TV, in a favorable light. While fewer view the media favorably than in 1985, 73 percent look on local TV news favorably, while 65 percent view newspapers favorably and 64 percent hold favorable opinions about network TV news.

The Pew research also revealed that many view coverage as being politically biased. According to the results, 60 percent said they sense political bias on the part of news organizations, while 26 percent say news organizations are careful to ensure there is not political bias in reporting.

The results of the survey, taken July 22-26 via landline and cell phones of 1506 adults, reveal that Republicans remain critical of news organizations on most fronts. In the past two years, Democrats, too, are becoming more critical of their news media assessments. Since 2007, criticism by Democrats of the news media has grown by double digits, according to Pew.

Television continues to remain an important source of news with 71 percent of respondents saying that they get most of their national and international news from the medium, the survey found. Those relying on the Internet for most of their national and international news stood at 42 percent, while who rank reading newspapers No. 1 for this news stood at 33 percent.

Television also held the top spot as the source for local news with 64 percent turning to TV as their main source, followed by newspapers at 41 percent and the Internet at 18 percent.