Partisanship influences how Americans perceive the news media more than any other factor, according to a new study released by the Pew Research Center.
The study, which sought to understand what factors influence public trust in the news media today, suggests that in the Trump Era, a direct relationship exists between Americans’ political party identification and whether they hold a favorable view of journalists and the news media.
Overall, the study discovered that Republicans are consistently more likely to express skepticism of the news media and their motives than Democrats: about a third of Republicans (30 percent) as well as Republican-leaning independents (31 percent) said they believe journalists have “very low” ethical standards, about six times the percentage of Democrats (five percent) and Democratic-leaning independents who believe this.
In fact, the study found that the more a respondent approves of President Trump’s performance, the more likely he/she is to exhibit a distrust toward the media.
For example, among the most fervent Trump supporters polled—those who said they “strongly approve” of Trump’s job performance—40 percent characterized journalists’ ethical standards as “very low.” By contrast, only 17 percent of Republicans who said they only somewhat approve of Trump exhibited such suspicion toward the media, and only 12 percent of Republicans who disapprove of Trump do so.
The study also found that other factors are also likely to influence Americans’ trust in the news, including the extent to which that person is engaged with national politics, as well as race (black Americans often exhibit greater support of news organizations and journalists than Hispanic or white Americans), age (older Americans are typically more loyal to their preferred news sources than younger adults) and whether that person expresses greater general trust in others.
None of these variables, however, were such reliable indicators of respondents’ perceived trust toward journalists and the news media as political affiliation.
“No other factors in this study come close to these partisan dynamics in their relationship to Americans’ views,” the study’s authors wrote.
Pew’s report, “Trusting the News Media in the Trump Era” relied on data drawn from more than 50 different surveys conducted by the Center’s American Trends Panel between 2014 and 2019.