Amid Criticism, Support for Media’s ‘Watchdog’ Role Stands Out

Aug 12, 2013

Public evaluations of news organizations’ performance on key measures such as accuracy, fairness and independence remain mired near all-time lows. But there is a bright spot among these otherwise gloomy ratings: broad majorities continue to say the press acts as a watchdog by preventing political leaders from doing things that should not be done, a view that is as widely held today as at any point over the past three decades.

In the wake of revelations about government activities, including the NSA surveillance program and the IRS targeting of political groups, nearly seven-in-ten (68%) say press criticism of political leaders keeps them from doing things that should not be done, while just 21% say press criticism keeps leaders from doing their job. Support for the media’s watchdog role has risen 10 points since 2011 even as other press ratings have shown little sign of improvement.

About equal majorities of Republicans (69%), independents (69%) and Democrats (67%) view news organizations as a check on political leaders and there has been a significant rise in this view across nearly all demographic and political groups. Young people especially have become more likely to say news organizations keep political leaders from doing things that should not be done, a shift in opinion that has taken place concurrently with rising concerns about civil liberties.

Read the full report on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press website.

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