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A new survey by Pew Research Center shows a stark divide between what Republicans and Democrats think of the media and its role as a watchdog of the federal government.
The two sides “now disagree more than ever on a fundamental issue of the news media’s role in society: whether news organizations’ criticism of political leaders primarily keeps them from doing things they shouldn’t – or keeps them from doing their job,” Pew reported about its survey.
Nine of 10 Democrats — or 89 percent — said the news media criticism keeps politicians in line, while only one in four Republicans assess the media that way.
“That is a 47-percentage-point gap, according to a new online survey conducted March 13-27, 2017, among 4,151 U.S. adults who are members of Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel,” Pew reported.
Pew noted that this gap is much different than opinions of the media at the start of the 2016 presidential election year, when both parties assessed the media’s job as holding politicians accountable — 74 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans.
Pew has been asking this question since 1985, noting “while Republicans have been more likely to support a watchdog role during Democratic presidencies and vice versa, the distance between the parties has never approached the 47-point gap that exists today.”
Until now the widest gap between Democrats and Republicans happened during the George W. Bush administration, when Democrats were 28 points more supportive of the watchdog role of the media than Republicans.
Some changes in survey results could be related to the difference in people’s response to online surveys compared with previous surveys done by telephone, but “even taking possible mode effects into account, though, this year’s difference is so stark that it would still be the largest gap in the center’s polling on this question.”
Though not as dramatic a split, the two parties are also divided on whether the media favors one side in its political coverage, on how much trust they have in national news media, and whether or not national news organizations are doing a good job of keeping them informed.
After Trump won the 2016 election, Pew surveyed voters about what news source they relied on and found:
“When voters were asked to write in their ‘main source’ for election news, four-in-ten Trump voters named Fox News. The next most-common main source among Trump voters, CNN, was named by only 8% of his voters.
“Clinton voters, however, did not coalesce around any one source. CNN was named more than any other, but at 18% had nowhere near the dominance that Fox News had among Trump voters. Instead, the choices of Clinton voters were more spread out. MSNBC, Facebook, local television news, NPR, ABC, The New York Times, and CBS were all named by between 5% and 9% of her voters.”