Trust and expectations
Gen Z and Millennials hold traditional expectations of the press and have some positive views of the media
Concerns about misinformation and the role of the press in spreading it may contribute to a negative perception of the media as a whole among Gen Z and Millennials. However, the survey also finds Gen Z and Millennials hold some media sources — especially local news outlets — in a relatively positive light. The results suggest a complex relationship with some hopeful signs for further development. For example, Millennials and Gen Z tend to cite the news media as a trusted source where they can find reliable information.
Nearly a third say there are individual journalists they follow who they have positive views about, more than the 1 in 5 who tend to think negatively about the individual journalists they follow. More than a third have a positive view overall of the local media (compared with 21% who have a negative view).
At the same time, only 23% have a positive view of the news media as a whole compared with 38% who have a negative view. And 26% have a positive view of the national media, compared with 34% who have a negative view.
Given that these questions about approval of institutions only reflect broad sentiments, researchers find it can be useful to ask related questions in different ways to probe more deeply at people’s feelings.
In this survey we did that by asking how much confidence people have in those in top management of different types of media (social media and traditional media). Here we find that news media outlets —and local outlets in particular — fare better than some other institutions. For instance, Gen Z and Millennials have the highest confidence in people running local media. They have far less confidence in people running social media companies.
Overall, 23% of Gen Z and Millennials have a great deal of confidence in those running local media. Twenty-one percent have a lot of confidence in those who run national media outlets. But only 15% have as much confidence in those who run social media companies. Indeed, 41% of Gen Z and Millennials have hardly any confidence at all in those who run social media companies.
Gen Z and Millennials want more diverse coverage from the media
Overall, Gen Z and Millennials have concerns about news coverage related to race and issues of equity. And most want more representation across all media outlets.
For instance, nearly half of 16- to 40-year-olds say the media does not portray immigrants, low-income people, and Black Americans accurately. They see white Americans as the demographic group most accurately depicted by news media.
Nearly half of Gen Z and Millennials think coverage of immigrants is inaccurate. Only 15% believe the press gets this coverage right. The numbers are similar for coverage of Black Americans. Only 15% of Gen Z and Millennials think press coverage of Black Americans is accurate, while 48% consider it inaccurate. The numbers are almost identical when it comes to coverage of Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans.
The perception of the coverage of white Americans is better. But even here only 21% consider the coverage completely or very accurate and 36% consider it inaccurate.
Gen Z and Millennials have nuanced expectations of the news media
Understanding what Millennials and Gen Z want from the news — both national and local — is essential for the long-term financial health of media outlets. Our survey shows that Gen Z and Millennials have some relatively traditional expectations: Most want the press to verify facts and maintain neutral positions on the issues of the day. Meanwhile, they also seek diverse points of view and representation in news media content.
Gen Z and Millennials consider it important for the press to focus on serious matters that can help people understand each other and solve problems. About half want the press to provide important civic information, to report on solutions to society’s problems, and to help people to understand their communities.
In contrast, fewer than half of Gen Z and Millennials say it is very or extremely important for the press to act as a watchdog — a role most journalists place high on their list of priorities.1
Even fewer Gen Z and Millennial Americans say it is especially important for the press to provide forums for discussions, and barely more than a quarter say it is a priority that the news be entertaining.
We have some comparative data on some of these priorities from a study four years ago. In 2018,2 The Media Insight Project queried Americans on media priorities and had a large sample of people ages 18 to 39. In that survey, 81% of adults younger than 40 said getting the facts right was very important. While this is still the number one priority in 2022, the percent is far lower, 69%.
Fairness is also a top value, but again significantly lower than what it was four years ago. The percentage of Gen Z and Millennials who consider fairness as very important for the press is down from 70% in 2018 to 61% today.
No other values show significant differences, including the continued desire for neutrality. Discerning whether these differences indicate a trend of some kind or a blip that might be influenced by something in this survey would require more research, but they are worth monitoring.
We also find differences within the Gen Z and Millennial populations, which we will explore more deeply in subsequent reports. For instance, older Millennials are more likely than Gen Z to value the news media’s neutrality (60% vs. 53%). Yet, on many measures, Gen Z is less likely to consider it very or extremely important.
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- Americans and the News Media: What they do — and don’t — understand about each other. https://apnorc.org/projects/americans-and-the-news-media-what-they-do-and-dont-understand-about-each-other/ ↩
- The two surveys in this study were conducted by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The general population survey of 2,019 adults using NORC’s AmeriSpeak® Panel was conducted from March 21 through April 17, 2018, via the web and telephone. https://apnorc.org/projects/americans-and-the-news-media-what-they-do-and-dont-understand-about-each-other/ ↩
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