A new analysis from the Pew Research Center has documented just how closely attitudes towards the news media are linked to party affiliation and perceptions of President Donald Trump.
Seventy-nine percent of Republicans believe that journalists have low or very low ethical standards, compared with 35 percent of Democrats. Notwithstanding Democratic tendencies to support the news media, attitudes are still somewhat restrained. Only 10 percent of Democrats feel journalists have very high ethical standards, compared with 53 percent of Democrats who think they have just high standards.
Within the Republican Party itself, support for Trump tracks closely with evaluations of the news media. Among Republicans who strongly approve of the president, 85 percent think journalists have low or very low ethical standards, compared with 67 percent of Trump-disapproving Republicans who think the same.
Remarkably, even many anti-Trump Democrats report attitudes in line with how the president feels about the news. Among Democrats who only “somewhat” disapprove of the president, the more Trump-friendly category in Pew’s survey of Democrats, 49 percent feel that journalists have low or very low ethical standards.
Republicans and supporters of the president are also substantially less likely to think the news media is an effective institution. Just 50 percent of Republicans say that criticism from journalists prevents politicians from engaging in improprieties. Eighty-two percent of Democrats say this.
However, the survey found that Republicans’ feelings about the president substantially impacted answers to this question. Forty-two percent of Republicans who strongly approve of the president do not feel that media criticism can effectively keep politicians from engaging in bad behavior. Among Republicans who disapprove of the president, confidence in the media’s power-checking abilities was 30 points higher.
The link between the survey’s skeptical responses and the president’s rhetoric is evinced through another survey question. Republicans, whose party engages in a disproportionate share of rhetoric concerning the news media, are more deeply divided about journalism than any other profession. The Republican Party’s staunch Trump supporters were 28 points more likely than the president’s Republican detractors to say journalists have very low standards.
No other profession has this wide of a spread, including attitudes towards elected officials, where the intra-GOP divide was only as large as seven points.
The Pew survey provides further evidence for the notion that media bubbles are creating an environment for partisans to reinforce their existing preferences rather than challenge them.
The share of Republicans who have confidence that the news media works in the public interest drops by nearly half when filtering out respondents who are not politically aware. The share of Democrats, on the other hand, grows by 15 points on this same question when considering just politically aware respondents.
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