Media bias seen as issue in US

The voters aren’t fooled, in the US anyway. Rasmussen reports that just 17% of US voters believe that “most reporters try to offer unbiased coverage of election campaigns.” Two thirds or so (68%) believe that “most reporters try to help the candidate that they want to win.”

It seems that Republicans are most skeptical, with 82% of Republicans, 69% of non-affiliated voters, and 56% of Democrats believing the news media promote candidates.

The vast majority (76%) think that the media have too much power and influence over elections, with a small minority (16%) thinking the balance is about right, and almost no-one (3%) thinking the media should have more power.

Voters are also very clear about who is seen as benefitting most from the media coverage this year; 54% say Obama has enjoyed the best coverage, 22% McCain and 14% Clinton. On the other hand, 43% say Clinton received the roughest media treatment, 27% McCain and only 15% Obama.

These popular perceptions run counter to the findings of a major monitoring study conducted by the impartial Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism that Obama hasn’t enjoyed a softer ride than Clinton. The Pew Center’s study of 5,374 assertions across 23 different themes between 1 January and 9 March also found that assertions about Obama became increasingly negative during the first three months of the year. It also concludes:

“The analysis suggests that both Obama and McCain are heading into the general election battle with less control over their personal messages than they might like. In many ways, the coverage of the campaign has been dominated by a series of small storylines or boomlets of coverage that so far have raised unresolved questions but not yet framed an overall storyline—Obama’s friendships and core ideology, the meaning of his promise of change, McCain’s core ideology, his relationship with lobbyists, and a looming battle, largely quiet during the primaries, over the direction of the conduct of the war in Iraq.”

The Pew Center’s analysis is closest to my own casual observation of CNN, MSNBC and Faux News. Can’t help wondering what a similar survey would find in NZ.

There’s no doubt that US voters know where to find the most amenable news source — or does the causal link run in the other direction? In 2004, Rasmussen found that voting reflected viewership. Bush won big amongst Fox News viewers — 65% to 28% — whilst CNN viewers preferred Kerry 63% to 26%.

[Neil Stockley blogs in depth on the implications of the Pew study for the candidtaes’ narratives. Highly recommended.]

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One Response to “Media bias seen as issue in US”

  1. George Darroch Says:

    I find that facts have very little to do with the beliefs of most people – and this isn’t to single out any one sector of society.

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