In a year full of major news stories – from impeachment to controversial elections, from the global pandemic to nationwide protests over racial injustice – Americans still have a complex relationship with the media.
the news media – also found areas in which American adults feel more attracted to The media and the expression of opinion. Being open to the possibility of improving their confidence in the industry.
For example, more than half of adults in the United States do not trust journalists’ ability to act in the public interest, or they believe other Americans trust the organization. The public is more likely to say that news organizations do not care about the people they report on.
While most Americans (61%) expect news to be accurate, nearly seven in ten (69%) believe news organizations generally try to cover up errors when they happen.
The reasons Americans believe these mistakes create the mistrust that large parts of the public feel: Many say that indifferent reporting (55%) or even a desire to mislead the audience (44%) are major factors behind major errors in news stories. Other, less neglected or infamous reasons such as breaking news speed (53%) are also seen to be responsible for errors.
Americans deal with what they perceive as a lack of transparency by news organizations – regarding the work they do and the inner workings of their companies. In fact, not only do many people see news outlets as vague in how they produce their stories and select their sources, but the vast majority – 72% – say news organizations are doing insufficient work to explain to the public the source of their money (see Chapter 2).
Six in ten adults in the United States also say that news organizations do not deal with conflicts of interest. Moreover, the vast majority of Americans (80%) believe that the news they get is influenced “to some degree” at least by financial and corporate interests.
But the study’s findings also indicate that the relationship between Americans and the media is not a lost cause. First, the public gives the media fairly high marks for covering specific issues and events, including recent protests and protests in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd.
And public suspicion of the media does not appear to be purely hostile: most Americans view a certain level of caution toward the media as healthy for a well-functioning society. Overall, 63% of US adults say that in an ideal world, it is better for society if Americans are media skeptical. Far fewer (36%) say it is better for people to trust the news media.
However, when asked directly whether Americans think their level of confidence in journalists could improve, three-quarters of them said that such an outcome was possible.
This raises the question: Where are the opportunities for the media to gain more confidence? First and foremost, the survey found that personal connections to the news correlate closely with Americans’ views of the media in general, echoing previous findings of the Pew Research Center locally. Americans who feel connected to news outlets – whether through a sense of appreciation, understanding, or loyalty to them – express more positive views of the media. For example, those who feel their news sources value them are more likely to expect their news to be accurate and believe that news outlets are transparent with audiences.
According to the results, there is much room for improvement in this area: While most Americans want to have personal connections with their news sources, many do not test them (again in line with the center’s previous findings in local news). More than half of adults in the United States say that their news outlets do not value them particularly well (57%) or that news organizations do not understand people like them (59%), and about two-thirds (63%) say they do not feel particularly loyal to outlets that They get it from the news.
Americans’ personal connections to specific news stories are also related to their attitudes toward the media. When Americans encounter news stories that arrive near their homes, they generally have good things to say about media coverage. Nearly two-thirds of those who felt personally connected to a story – either because it covered an issue they thought they were experts in, or because it was about an important event they lived or witnessed – believe the story was well covered. Those who feel this way express more positive views of the media in general than those who do.