Fresh data affirm a long-running crisis for U.S. media organizations: Republicans and conservatives just don’t trust them. A May 2017 Pew Research Center noted in stark terms how the media-trust gap is widening between the parties. Now comes a Gallup/Knight Foundation survey with a finding that cements common wisdom on the topic.
Asked to estimate the percentage of news on TV, radio and newspapers that qualifies as “misinformation,” Republicans said 51 percent; Democrats, 23 percent. For conservatives and liberals, the corresponding figures are 54 percent and 24 percent.
With President Donald Trump out there harrumphing baselessly about “fake news,” with his people in the White House briefing room and the executive-branch departments – particularly the Environmental Protection Agency – launching their own attacks on the media, and with folks such as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson telling his audience to believe the “opposite” of what they hear in the national media, what’s the likelihood that this gap is going to close anytime soon? Should it continue to widen, Trump will likely add the trend to his list of presidential accomplishments, to judge from his remarks in 2016, when a Gallup poll showed dreadful media-trust levels. “I think I had a lot to do with that poll . . . because I’ve exposed the media. If you look at the New York Times, and The Washington Post, and if you look at others: The level of dishonesty is enormous. It’s so dishonest. I can do something that’s wonderful and they make it sound terrible,” Trump said.
The Knight/Gallup survey found other partisan gaps in media behavior, as well. It asked respondents: “Apart from articles that are clearly written as comedy or satire, have you ever shared news stories with other people that you suspected were misinformation?” The results:
“Sharing of misinformation is more common among people with right-leaning political views: 32% of Republicans and 30% of conservatives say they have done so, compared with 14% of Democrats and 13% of liberals. Also, 30% of those who have an unfavorable opinion of the news media have shared misinformation, compared with 16% who view the news media favorably and 17% who have a neutral view of it.”
There’s another layer to the research. “Twenty-one percent of those who shared misinformation did so to annoy or upset the recipient,” said the study.