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POLL: Two-Thirds of Americans Agree Journalists Are Mostly Advocates, Not Unbiased

by | May 16, 2023

By Tim Graham

When Americans say they want news free of partisan bias or spin, you can wonder if that’s what people say, but not what people watch. Take, for example, the launch of NewsNation, originally pitched as an attempt to be objective, which quickly ended up with Chris Cuomo joining the cable channel as an “objective” host.

Now the inaugural Harris Poll from the new website The Messenger repeats that Americans desire an objective news outlet:

Two in three voters in the poll, conducted by HarrisX, agreed that journalists mostly practice advocacy rather than unbiased journalism, including 77 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of Democrats.

Three in four voters agreed that the media “gives a biased picture of political events,” including 68 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Republicans, and 76 percent of Independents.

More than 80 percent of voters agreed that “we need a new news medium dedicated to even-handed treatment of issues without political bias.”

Harris Poll chairman Mark Penn concluded. “They are hungry for new sources of information.”

The respondents who believed the coverage was biased were more likely to say it favored Democrats than favored Republicans. A full half of respondents said that media coverage of Democrats was biased in their favor, whereas only 27 percent said the media favored Republicans.

A majority of Democrats (55 percent) said that they believed coverage of their party was fair, and only 19 percent of Democrats said that the media was biased against the party. Republicans took a far different view of coverage of their own party: 19 percent of Republican respondents said that coverage of the GOP was fair, and 69 percent said that coverage of the GOP was biased against the party.

That same feeling extends to Democrat and Republican leaders: 63 percent of voters said that Biden is getting “easy” questions from the media, while 42 percent said the same of the media’s treatment of Trump. The big difference there is that Biden isn’t taking very many questions from the media, certainly not in live events like press conferences.

That’s unlike Donald Trump, who just subjected himself to an hour-plus of pummeling from a CNN “town hall.”  The Messenger/Harris poll found that most Americans (62 percent) agreed that Trump should “be treated like any other politician,” rather than agreeing with the statement that “anything goes when it comes to criticizing Donald Trump.” Roughly the same share of voters – 61 percent – said he “should be allowed on news media” as well. There’s something odd about people who say they favor Democracy will say Trump should not be “allowed on news media.”

Finally, one in four voters, the plurality, said that Fox News was their primary source of television news, followed by CNN and ABC with 14 percent each. Democrats and Republicans were deeply split on the trustworthiness of Fox News: Thirty percent of Republicans said Fox News was “very trustworthy,” while the same share of Democrats – 30 percent – said Fox News was “very untrustworthy.”

Forty five percent of Republicans named Fox News a principal source of TV news, whereas Democrats were naturally more divided among multiple sources, top among them CNN (23 percent) and ABC (17 percent).

Editor’s note.  Tim Graham is the director of media analysis for the Media Research Center. This appeared at Newsbusters and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Media Bias