Only 24% of Americans Believe News Media Tries to be Unbiased

By Barbara Hollingsworth | July 6, 2015 | 11:31 AM EDT

Newspaper front pages displayed in the Newseum in Washington, D.C. (AP photo)

( – Less than a quarter of all Americans – 24 percent – believe that the news media try to report without bias, according to The Newseum Institute’s annual national survey on public attitudes about the First Amendment.

The survey asked if respondents agreed with this statement: "Overall, the news media tries to report the news without bias."

Twenty-four percents said they agreed with this and 70 percent said they disagreed.

“The 24% who now say the media try to report news without bias is the lowest since we began asking this question in 2004,” the institute reports in its 2015 State of the First Amendment Survey, and “represents a 17-point drop from last year and a 22-point drop from 2013.”

Respondents’ views varied with political party affiliation, with nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans saying they believe the media is unbiased.

“Democrats (36%) are significantly more likely to think that the news media try to be unbiased than do either Republicans (19%) or independents (21%),” the poll noted.

Recent scandals surrounding two high-profile network news anchors may have contributed to the increased lack of trust in the objectivity of the news media expressed by more than three-quarters of all Americans.

“It appears that the negative news stories about such high profile news media personalities as suspended NBC news anchor Brian Williams, and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos have taken their toll on news media credibility among Americans,” according to the poll.

“The problematic events surrounding these new personalities may also have eroded the sense among Americans that the media should act as a watchdog against government,” the poll added, citing “the lowest recorded percentage of those agreeing (69%) with this statement.”

Negative views about the news media's objectivity may also be due to coverage of the racially-charged response to police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland, the institute reported.

“It is also possible that the public is reacting negatively to media coverage of the high profile events in Ferguson and Baltimore over the past year,” according to the poll.

Young people aged 18 to 29 were the least likely to believe that the media are objective, with only 7 percent agreeing that news outlets try to report without an ideological bias.

But the vast majority of middle-aged adults between the ages of 30 and 49 also have a negative view of the media’s objectivity, with just 13 percent saying that it tries to report the news without bias.

Although older Americans over 50 are the most likely to believe that the media is objective, only 26 percent of them agree that it reports the news without bias.

The nationwide survey of 1,002 adult Americans was conducted between May 14 and May 23.

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