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For years, studies have shown Americans' trust in the news media is steadily declining. In recent months, the rise of so-called fake news and the rhetoric of President Donald Trump about journalists being "the enemy of the people" have made the question of trust in a free press an even more prominent issue facing the country. At the same time, data show that over the past decade, people have been consuming more news than ever. How are we to explain the apparent paradox? New research released today by the Media Insight Project, a collaboration of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, suggests public attitudes about the news media are more complex and nuanced than many traditional studies indicate, with attitudes varying markedly depending on what media people are asked about.
Partisanship and the Media: How Personal Politics Affect Where People Go, What They Trust, and Whether They PayDecember 27, 2017
New research shows that although Americans are in many ways divided in their attitudes toward the media, Republicans and Democrats are in many ways strikingly alike in their behavior toward the news. They are equally likely to pay for news, to get news from social media, to seek it out actively rather than passively, and to get news multiple times a day, according to two recent studies by the Media Insight Project, a collaboration of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Republicans and Democrats are also about equally likely to cite a local news source when asked about the news media they use most often and are equally likely to follow news about their towns and neighborhoods. In general, it is independents who stand out from partisans of either stripe, particularly for being less likely to follow news closely or engage in other ways with the news. But putting behavior aside, there are striking and potentially challenging differences among people of different party identifications when it comes to attitudes toward the news. There are also differences in the specific sources Democrats versus Republicans rely on for their information once you move beyond local news. In general, Republicans and independents are less satisfied than Democrats—even with the news sources for which they pay and that they use most often. Democrats, for instance, are more likely than Republicans or independents to say both the sources they use for free and the sources they pay for are reliable. Democrats are also more likely than Republicans or independents to say their paid source is a good value. These partisan differences also exist among just newspaper subscribers. Democrats who subscribe to newspapers are more likely than Republican subscribers to say their newspaper is reliable and to believe it is a good value.
In this report, we want to explore a series of ideas people in news are working on that, taken together, will create a different approach to accountability journalism — work that encompasses fact-checking, explanatory and investigative reporting, but more generally applies to the journalistic work of holding the powerful accountable. Our proposals include recommendations about tools and technology, but also about format, tone and presentation.
The Media Insight Project, a collaboration of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, has undertaken what we believe is one of the largest efforts ever to understand who subscribes to news, what motivates them, and how creators of journalism can engage more deeply with consumers so more people will subscribe.This, the first report in that series, is based on in-depth formative interviews with news consumers in three cities and a nationally representative survey, informed by those interviews, of 2,199 American adults conducted between February 16 and March 20, 2017.
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