Online Newspaper Readership Countering Print Losses: Public More Critical Of Press, But Goodwill Persists

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

06/26/2005 - Public attitudes toward the press, which have been on a downward track for years, have become more negative in several key areas. Growing numbers of people question the news media's patriotism and fairness. Perceptions of political bias also have risen over the past two years.

Yet despite these criticisms, most Americans continue to say that they like mainstream news outlets. By wide margins, more Americans give favorable than unfavorable ratings to their daily newspaper (80%-20%), local TV news (79%-21%), and cable TV news networks (79%-21%), among those able to rate these organizations. The margin is only slightly smaller for network TV news (75%-25%).

In fact, the favorable ratings for most categories of news organizations surpass positive ratings for President Bush and major political institutions ­ the Supreme Court, Congress, and the two major political parties. Favorable ratings for daily newspapers, local TV news and network TV news have all remained fairly stable since July 2001, even as public attitudes toward the news media have declined. The exception to this pattern are large, nationally influential newspapers, such as the Washington Post and New York Times, whose favorable ratings have declined markedly.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted June 8-12, 2005, among 1,464 Americans, shows increasing politicization of attitudes toward the news media. Republicans, already more critical than Democrats of the press, have become even more so. Growing numbers of Republicans see the press as too critical of America and hurting democracy. Still, even majorities of Republicans continue to express favorable views of most major news sources.

This is not the first time a Pew Research Center survey has shown the public to be broadly critical of the press, yet still favorable in its overall view of news organizations themselves. In fact, the public has long been two-minded in its views of the news media ­ faulting the press in a variety of ways, while still valuing the news and appreciating the product of news outlets.

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