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Media Bias

Eighty-three percent of Americans surveyed by Gallup in 2020 blame the media for political division in the United States.(1)  Experts interviewed by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) identified “the breakdown of trusted information sources” as one of the “grand challenges we face in the 21st Century.”(2)  In 2011, over 90% of US media were owned by six corporate conglomerates, consolidated from fifty in 1983, providing “the illusion of choice.”(3)

 

According to a 2020 Pew Research Center Survey, among both Republicans and Democrats, more than eight in ten report that Americans “often get different facts depending on which news sources they turn to.”(4) In 2021, Axios reported from Edelman’s annual trust barometer data that “for the first time ever, fewer than half of all Americans have trust in traditional media.”(5) A majority of Americans say that fake news has caused "a great deal of confusion" about basic facts.(6) Most do not expect the situation to improve.(7)

 

Gallup reported that “a majority of Americans currently see "a great deal" (46%) or "a fair amount" (37%) of political bias in news coverage.(8) Although 57% of U.S. adults see at least a fair amount of bias in their go-to news source, they are much more concerned about bias in the news other people are getting (64%) than about their own news being biased (34%).”

 

The Pew Research Center found that 67% of Americans surveyed reported that even their favored news sources that they turn to most often have “presented facts that favor one side of an issue or published information that hasn’t been fully verified.”(4)

 

Edelman reported that 56% of Americans agree that “journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations,” and that 58% concur that “most news organizations are more concerned with supporting an ideology or political position than with informing the public.”(5)

 

A 2007 Zogby International survey found that 84% of US voters surveyed believe there is real media bias; 64% of those believe that bias favored liberal candidates.(9) An October 2018 Rasmussen Reports poll of 1,000 likely voters found that “45% of Americans believed that when most reporters write about a congressional race, they are trying to help the Democratic candidate. Alternatively, only 11% believed that most reporters aimed to help Republican candidates.”(10)

 

The Media Research Center has aggregated data that U.S. journalists have favored Democratic candidates over Republicans by a wide margin, even in elections when American voters have favored Republicans.(11)

 

In observations long obvious to much of the American public, federal appeals court judge Laurence Silberman argued in a dissent that media “bias against the Republican Party” was “rather shocking.”(12) He noted that the New York Times and Washington Post are “Democratic Party broadsheets,” with Wall Street Journal news leading in that direction. Silberman wrote:

 

“The orientation of these three papers is followed by The Associated Press and most large papers across the country (such as the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, and Boston Globe). Nearly all television—network and cable—is a Democratic Party trumpet. Even the government-supported National Public Radio follows along.” 

 

Judge Silberman observed that Silicon Valley “also has an enormous influence over the distribution of news” and “similarly filters news delivery in ways favorable to the Democratic Party," whereas other outlets, including Fox News, The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, serve as “notable exceptions to Democratic Party ideological control.”  Silberman continued:

 

“It should be borne in mind that the first step taken by any potential authoritarian or dictatorial regime is to gain control of communications, particularly the delivery of news...It is fair to conclude, therefore, that one-party control of the press and media is a threat to a viable democracy. It may even give rise to countervailing extremism.”

 

Perhaps related to perceptions of bias, Pew reported that Republicans and Democrats “place their trust in two nearly inverse news media environments.”(13) Between American liberals and conservatives, there is “little overlap in the news sources they turn to and trust.”(14)

 

References

1. Gallup/Knight Poll: Americans’ concerns about media bias deepen, even as they see it vital for democracy.” Knight Foundation, 4 August 2020. https://knightfoundation.org/press/releases/gallup-knight-poll-americans-concerns-about-media-bias-deepen-even-as-they-see-it-as-vital-for-democracy/ 

2.  Gray, Richard. 2017. "Lies, propaganda and fake news: A challenge for our age." British Broadcasting Corporation, March 1, 2017. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20170301-lies-propaganda-and-fake-news-a-grand-challenge-of-our-age 

3. Lutz, Ashley. 2012 "These 6 Corporations Control 90% of the Media in America." Business Insider, June 14, 2012. https://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6 

4. Shearer, Elisa. “Two-thirds of U.S. adults say they’ve seen their own news sources report facts meant to favor one side.” Pew Research Center, 2 November 2020. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/11/02/two-thirds-of-u-s-adults-say-theyve-seen-their-own-news-sources-report-facts-meant-to-favor-one-side/ 

5. Salmon, Felix. “Media trust hits new low.” Axios, 21 January 2021.  https://www.axios.com/media-trust-crisis-2bf0ec1c-00c0-4901-9069-e26b21c283a9.html 

6. Barthel, Michael, Amy Mitchell and Jesse Holcomb. 2016. "Many Americans Believe Fake News Is Sowing Confusion." Pew Research Center, December 15, 2016. https://www.journalism.org/2016/12/15/many-americans-believe-fake-news-is-sowing-confusion/ 

7. Anderson, Janna and Lee Rainie. 2017. "The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online." Pew Research Center, October 19, 2017. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2017/10/19/the-future-of-truth-and-misinformation-online/ 

8. Brenan, Megan, and Helen Stubbs. “News Media Viewed as Biased but Crucial to Democracy.” Gallup, 4 August 2020. https://news.gallup.com/poll/316574/news-media-viewed-biased-crucial-democracy.aspx 

9. “Zogby Poll: Voters Believe Media Bias is Very Real". Zogby International, March 14, 2007. Retrieved March 28, 2007. (Original link defunct.) Summary at   https://www.tvtechnology.com/news/media-bias-real-zogby-poll-says 

10. "Voters Think Reports Trying to Help Democrats in Midterm Elections." Rasmussen Reports, October 25, 2018. https://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/october_2018/voters_think_reporters_trying_to_help_democrats_in_midterm_elections 

11. “Media Bias Basics.” Media Research Center. http://archive.mrc.org/biasbasics/biasbasics3.asp

12. Castronuevo, Celine. "Federal judge accuses NY Times, WaPo of being 'Democratic Party broadsheets.'" The Hill, March 20, 2021. https://thehill.com/homenews/media/544145-federal-judge-accuses-ny-times-wapo-of-being-democratic-party-broadsheets 

13. Jurkowitz, Mark, Amy Mitchell, Elisa Sharer and Mason Walker. “U.S. Media Polarization and the 2020 Election: A Nation Divided.” Pew Research Center, 24 January 2020. https://www.journalism.org/2020/01/24/u-s-media-polarization-and-the-2020-election-a-nation-divided/ 

14. Mitchell, Amy, et al. 2014. "Political Polarization and Media Habits." Pew Research Center, October 21, 2014. https://www.journalism.org/2014/10/21/political-polarization-media-habits/