Poll: Big Majorities Say Objective Journalism Is Dead and that Media Back Obama
September 24, 2009 - 4:55 PMTwo-thirds (67.9 percent) of Americans surveyed think that "objective and fair journalism is dead," while an overwhelming 89.3 percent believe the news media played a role in the election of President Barack Obama.
That is what a poll conducted earlier this month by the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute showed. The survey, “Trust and Satisfaction with the National News Media,” polled 800 people nationwide and revealed that only 24.3 percent of Americans believe all or most reporting.
The poll also showed that over half of Americans – 56.4 percent – think the media are promoting the Democratic health care reform package without objective criticism, while 57.6 percent of those surveyed believed the news media tried to diminish the record of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee.
Ultimately, 86.6 percent of the people surveyed think that journalists strongly or somewhat have their own political and public policy positions and attempt to influence public opinion.
“The results suggest that we are witnessing a new era of partisan media with the important difference that current news outlets claim to be offering objective coverage when they often aren’t,” said James Castonguay, an associate professor of media studies and digital culture at Sacred Heart University.
Interestingly, the Fox News Channel, the most widely viewed cable news station, was ranked the most and least trusted TV news outlet among survey respondents.
Asked to name the TV news organization that is most trusted and accurate, 30 percent said Fox while 19.5 percent said CNN. NBC News and ABC News came in a distant tie for third at 7.5 percent.
But almost as many, 26.2 percent, named Fox as the TV news they trust the least. NBC News came in second place for least trusted at 9.9 percent, followed by MSNBC at 9.4 percent, CNN at 8.5 percent, CBS News at 5.3 percent and ABC News at 3.7 percent.
Despite the public’s distrust, 64.1 percent agree that the “health of our democracy is directly tied to the health of journalism.”
But the fact that so many Americans do not believe what the media report could be problematic for the nation’s health, said Jerry C. Lindsley, director of the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute.
“This perception of bias will eventually catch up with the news media outlets,” he said. “We found that 45.9 percent have permanently stopped watching a news media organization, print or electronic, because of perceived bias.”
In another question, 59 percent said they selected what news to watch or read based on objective reporting while 19 percent made their choice because they believe a specific news outlet shares their political views.
The survey shows that Americans are concerned about concentration of media ownership – typically a liberal concern. But, most Americans also oppose the return of the Fairness Doctrine, typically a conservative view.
A big majority – 73.4 percent – thinks all news organizations should provide equal time and space to multiple sides of issues, but 70 percent said the media should be free from government regulation that would impose fairness.
Meanwhile, 71 percent think it is important that limits be put on how many media outlets a single company can own, while 24.7 percent believe this is not important. The poll says that 56.7 percent think it is “bad for democracy” that six companies currently own almost all major media outlets in the United States.