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Partisanship and attitudes about news

Democrats have much more positive views of the media overall

In our report on views on the media, Americans were asked a variety of questions about attitudes toward either the media generally or the media they use most often. Across the board, people feel more positive about the media they use than “the news media” in the abstract. And although evaluations of the news media in general are mostly negative, Democrats tend to have more positive evaluations of it than either Republicans or independents.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans or independents to say they trust the information they get from the news media in general “a lot,” that the news media keeps them very well informed on the important issues of the day, and that it is very accurate.

Democrats Independents Republicans
Trust information a lot 30% 12% 8%
Keeps them very well informed on important issues 38% 14% 20%
News is very accurate 31% 9% 8%

Data Source: Questions: Thinking of the news media, how much, if at all, do you trust the information you get? In general, how well do the news media keep you informed of the most important stories of the day? Would you say the news from news media is…?
Source: Views on the Media – Media Insight Project conducted March 8-29, 2017, with 2,036 adults nationwide.

Media Insight Project

Republicans are more likely to say news organizations in general keep political leaders from doing their job, while Democrats and independents are more likely to say news organizations keep political leaders from doing things that shouldn’t be done.

Democrats Independents Republicans
Keeps political leaders from doing their job 17% 31% 59%
Keeps political leaders from doing
things that shouldn't be done
81% 66% 37%

Data Source: Question: Some people think that by criticizing leaders, news organizations keep political leaders from doing their job. Others think that such criticism is worth it because it keeps political leaders from doing things that should not be done. Which position is closer to your opinion?
Source: Views on the Media – Media Insight Project conducted March 8-29, 2017, with 2,036 adults nationwide.

Media Insight Project

Democrats also have more positive views of the specific media they use

While much attention is focused on partisan differences in views of media in the abstract, the research also finds differences when people are asked about media they actually use, including those they pay for.

Not only do Democrats have more positive attitudes toward the media overall, they also have more confidence in the news sources they use regularly. Data from both recent Media Insight Project studies—on who pay for news and views of the media—show that Democrats tend to have more trust in information from the media they use, while Republicans and independents are more skeptical of the media they use—even when they are paying for it.

Our research on paying for news asked respondents to cite a source they pay for, or a free source they rely on, and in both cases, Democrats are more likely to see the information they received from their source in a more positive light. Democrats are more likely than Republicans and independents to say both their free sources of news and their paid source of news are more reliable.

Democrats Independents Republicans
Paid source 73% 56% 53%
Free source 56% 38% 40%

Data Source: Question: How reliable is the news and information you get from [SOURCE]?
Source: Pay for News – Media Insight Project conducted February 16-March 20, 2017, with 2,199 adults nationwide.

Media Insight Project

The same differences emerge among newspaper subscribers specifically. Seventy-four percent of Democrats say the newspaper they pay for is very or completely reliable compared with 52 percent of Republican subscribers and 52 percent of independents.

At the same time, according to the views on the media study, Democrats are more likely than both Republicans and independents to say the media they use most often are willing to admit their mistakes rather than try to cover it up. Fifty-five percent of Democrats say the media they use are willing to admit mistakes compared with 43 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of independents.

Then there are other signs of dissatisfaction. For instance, Republicans and independents are also more likely than Democrats to question the political leanings of the media they use. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats say the media they use is just about right in regards to their coverage compared with 63 percent of both Republicans and independents.

Democrats Independents Republicans
About right 78% 63% 63%
Too liberal 9% 26% 33%
Too conservative 12% 10% 4%

Data Source: Question: Do you think the news media you use most often are too liberal, just about right, or too conservative?
Source: Views on the Media – Media Insight Project conducted March 8-29, 2017, with 2,036 adults nationwide.

Media Insight Project

Republicans are also more likely than both Democrats and independents to say the sources they use most often hurt democracy rather than protect democracy. Thirty percent of Republicans say the media they use hurt democracy compared with 19 percent of independents and just 12 percent of Democrats.

Another interesting discovery of partisan differences has to do with the distinction between news and opinion in media coverage. Democrats, for instance, are most likely to say it is easy for them to tell the difference between reporting and opinion in the news media generally (63 percent) compared to independents (53 percent), who are in turn more likely to say it is easy for them to do so than Republicans (42 percent). And Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats to say they find it difficult to tell the difference.

Democrats Independents Republicans
Very/somewhat easy 63% 53% 42%
Very/somewhat difficult 22% 31% 48%
It doesn't matter to me 15% 16% 10%

Data Source: Question: Many news organizations produce opinion content as well as report the news. How easy or difficult is it for you to tell the difference between the opinion content and news reporting in the news media, or does it not matter to you?
Source: Views on the Media – Media Insight Project conducted March 8-29, 2017, with 2,036 adults nationwide.

Media Insight Project

However, there are no significant partisan differences in telling the difference between opinion content and news reporting for the news media people use most often. Sixty-five percent of Democrats, 64 percent of Republicans, and 57 percent of independent say it is easy to tell the difference between opinion content and news reporting in the sources they use most often.

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