75% of Americans Attribute Rising National Division to Media: Poll

Originally published May 1, 2023 7:44 am PDT

A recent survey indicates that the majority of American citizens believe the news media is contributing to the growing political polarization in the country.

According to a study by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, almost 75% of adults in the United States blame the media for increasing divisions, while just under half express little or no trust in the media’s capacity to report news fairly and accurately.

The poll, which surveyed 1,002 adults from March 30 to April 3, was published ahead of World Press Freedom Day and highlights significant concerns regarding misinformation and the roles of media, politicians, and social media companies in propagating it.

Barbara Jordan, a 53-year-old Democrat from Hutchinson, Kansas, says, “The news riles people up.”

She adds, “You’re better off Googling something and learning about it. I trust the internet more than I do the TV.”

This erosion of trust might lead many Americans to turn away from mainstream news sources, opting instead for social media and alternative websites, according to AP.

Although a slight majority of respondents have some level of confidence in the news media, a mere 16% express a high degree of confidence.

Conversely, 45% report little to no confidence at all.

The poll reveals that 40% of Americans believe the press is harming democracy, while only 20% think it is protecting it.

Another 40% remain neutral on the matter.

Republican respondents are generally more critical of the media than Democrats, with 61% of Republicans arguing that the media undermines democracy, in contrast to 23% of Democrats and 36% of independents.

Cross-party majorities agree that the news media exacerbates political divisions, but Republicans are more likely to claim this occurs frequently.

Furthermore, Republicans are more inclined to believe the news is heavily influenced by the U.S. government and journalists’ political views.

A 71-year-old retired Republican from Navarre, Florida, explains, “Everyone tells a different story. The media does nothing but stir up fear.”

He continues, “For me, and for most of the people I know, we feel like we’re totally in the dark.”

Misinformation concerns are shared by both parties, with nearly 90% of U.S. adults identifying it as an issue, AP notes.

Approximately one-third of American adults encounter false claims from politicians or misleading headlines daily.

Social media is a significant factor, as nearly two-thirds of participants expect news stories on social media platforms to be inaccurate. Respondents who regularly rely on social media for news are somewhat more trusting of it.

In summary, about 60% of those surveyed hold the news media accountable for the spread of misinformation, and a similar proportion believes the media has a major responsibility to address it.

Most respondents also think that social media companies and politicians share responsibility for both spreading and curbing misinformation.

The margin of error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.