A new study by the Knight Foundation puts public perception of biased news media in a historical perspective at a time when “fake news” has become a catchphrase.
In 1989, only 25 percent of US adults said there was a “great deal” of political bias in news coverage. Now, that number is at an all-time high of 45 percent.
Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to see the news as politically skewed. But when you zoom out, it becomes clear that widespread perception of political bias exists across party lines: Yes, 91 percent of Republicans see at least a fair amount of political bias in coverage. But so do 75 percent of Democrats.
The bias shows up in different ways, according to survey respondents: 65 percent of those surveyed said there was too much bias in the reporting of news stories that were supposed to be objective. Two-thirds, or 66 percent, thought news organizations were too dramatic or sensational to attract more readers or viewers. And 64 percent thought too much bias existed in the selection of what stories news organizations do or don’t cover.
The perception of bias goes hand in hand with an unmet expectation for objective, or “unbiased,” reporting. Forty percent of respondents say that the media is performing “very poorly” at providing objective news reports, and 66 percent say most news media don’t do a good job separating fact from opinion. (This is up from 42 percent in a 1984 American Society of Newspaper Editors survey.)
Notably, less than half of those surveyed could even name a news source they believed to be objective. For those who could name an objective source, by far the most common response was Fox News, particularly among Republicans:
2/ Here's a look at the top "objective" news sources for Democrats and Republicans. pic.twitter.com/Pit45uGvnD— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) January 16, 2018
Democrats were divided among several outlets. No Republicans, meanwhile, named the New York Times.