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Home > Publications > Quill > Poll finds lessening trust and satisfaction with news media


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Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Poll finds lessening trust and satisfaction with news media

Charlie Gibson named most trusted news anchor, Bill O’Reilly in top five

By Scott Leadingham

Less than a quarter of Americans surveyed believe all or most news media reporting and close to 90 percent think news media attempt to influence public opinion with their own political agendas, according to a Sacred Heart University poll on trust and satisfaction with the news media.

The poll surveyed 800 people across the country on questions related to news media influence, viewing habits, ownership of mainstream media outlets and the prevalence of online news.

On the subject of newspapers shifting online, almost 40 percent said they read newspapers less often now than they did in 2004. Though 45 percent indicated the Internet is adequately covering for the decline in print, 35 percent didn’t think so.

As print news shifts more to the Web and daily newspapers move fully online or close entirely, such as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News, state and federal legislators have offered solutions to keep news outlets afloat. In March, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced the Newspaper Revitalization Act to spur newspapers toward becoming non-profit entities. Others have suggested government bailout funds, similar to those for banks and domestic car makers, to help struggling newspaper companies.

The Sacred Heart poll suggests Americans aren’t too keen on such ideas. Nearly 78 percent of poll respondents said using tax dollars to help newspapers is a bad idea.

Respondents were also questioned about the trustworthiness of media outlets and specific broadcasters. An open-ended question asked who is the most trusted news anchor on TV. Of the 25 broadcasters noted by participants, Charlie Gibson (ABC) was named by nearly 20 percent, followed by Brian Williams (NBC) at 17 percent, Katie Couric (CBS) at 10 percent, Bill O’Reilly (Fox News) at 9 percent and Jim Lehrer (PBS) at 2 percent. Former “NBC Nightly News” anchor and interim moderator of “Meet the Press” Tom Brokaw, who no longer serves in a daily broadcast role, garnered 8 percent of responses.

Other poll results:

-Most trusted news outlet for accurate reporting:

Fox News, 30 percent; CNN, 19.5 percent; NBC News, 7.5 percent

-Least trusted news outlet:

Fox News, 26 percent; NBC News, 10 percent; MSNBC 9 percent

-By a five-to-one margin, The New York Times and MSNBC are seen as mostly to somewhat liberal in their coverage over those who view the outlets as conservative.

-70 percent said news media are not as responsive to market demand or consumer desires for news coverage as the outlets claim to be.

-73 percent do not have a personal social network account such as Twitter, Facebook or MySpace.

-84 percent believe national news media are very or somewhat biased.

Researchers conducted the poll by phone Sept. 8-11, building on and adding to previous survey results from 2003 and 2007. For the full survey results, see the news release from Sacred Heart University.

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