Like some of the stories they present, there is much debate over the role the media play in American lives and politics.
The 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, repeatedly expressed his belief that some of the biggest news outlets are fake news during his term. Other sources say the role of investigative journalism has never been more important than it is today.
To understand the pulse of media relations in the U.S., we surveyed 1,000 Americans about how much they trust news outlets, including everything from printed sources to social media. We even asked respondents to tell us the things they worry about most based on the news they watch. Continue reading to see what we uncovered.
No Press Is Bad Press
In November 2016, on the heels of the presidential election, the then newly elected president, Donald Trump, shared just some of his many tweets aimed at discrediting major media outlets. These particular tweets were geared toward The New York Times, who he claimed were “losing thousands of subscribers” because of their poor coverage. Unfortunately for Trump, his sentiment toward The Times – and written media in general – may have backfired a bit. Newspapers received a significant subscriber boost following the results of the 2016 election, and in May 2017, The New York Times announced a record increase in digital subscribers.
The New York Times wasn’t the only newspaper to profit from the president’s comments, though. According to our survey, newspapers were seen as the most trusted media source – earning an average score of nearly 3.3 on our scale out of five. News websites and radio shows were the only other media outlets to score a three or higher, according to those surveyed. While only a quarter of Americans get their news from the radio today, studies have found more than half of listeners who follow broadcasts like NPR consider it to be a trustworthy source of information.
While respondents identified they were marginally more likely than not to find comedy shows and podcasts as credible sources of news, social media sites and blogs were voted as resources people trusted the least. That is despite the hiring of fact-checkers by social media sites such as Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook and Instagram.
Democrats and Republicans can’t seem to agree on much these days, but survey participants from both parties found newspapers to be one of the most credible sources of information available. By a slight margin, Republican respondents were inclined to find coverage on news websites the most trustworthy.
As a whole, Republicans were much less trusting of the media in general compared to Democrats. Republicans rated the trustworthiness of newspapers around a 2.9, but Democrats believed print media was a 3.7 on the same scale.
Despite the recent surge of misinformation around the world from social media websites like Facebook, Republicans were more trusting of social media and blogs than Democrats, but significantly less willing to believe news shared on comedy shows. While comedy programs like The Daily Show have previously been rated as more reliable than serious news stations, and the show’s host at the time was often found reliable in his information, Republicans rated the trustworthiness of comedy news shows a 1.8 out of five, on average.
What’s Keeping Americans Up at Night?
To understand what matters most to people who watch certain news programs more often than others, we divided participants by who preferred to watch Fox News, which generally has a more conservative audience, or MSNBC, which tends to lean to the Left.
The No. 1 concern for Fox News viewers was someone breaking into their home. Critics of the network claim it purposely generates fear in the millions of people who tune in to its shows on a regular basis.
On the other side of the aisle, MSNBC viewers were more concerned about the country becoming fragmented than anything else, and they may be right to feel that way. A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans’ party preferences are nearly evenly divided, with 45% of adults identifying as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents and 44% of adults saying they are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents.
However, respondents from both parties identified the U.S. government and society breaking down among the top five things in which they were concerned.
Perceptions of Violence Around the World
We asked survey respondents to give us their perspective on how people who identify as Christian, Jewish, or Muslim are treated today.
Every year, thousands of Christians around the world face oppression in the form of detainment or imprisonment, physical assault, and even murder. These persecutions are reported in many news outlets. According to Fox News viewers, 41 percent believed the number of persecuted Christians is on the rise, while an equal number of MSNBC viewers believed the number to be holding steady.
Some media outlets reported an increase in anti-Semitic attitudes around the world but said the number of violent attacks on Jewish people has fallen. Less than 1 in 5 people polled believed violence toward Jews is on the decline, while about 1 in 3 people who watch Fox News thought it is holding steady or on the rise. Forty percent of MSNBC viewers echoed the sentiment of threats against Jews in recent years being on the rise.
War and conflict also contribute to violence committed against certain religious groups. For example, the civil war in Syria, which has been going on for over a decade, has caused the death of over 300,000 civilians, including tens of thousands of children. Muslims make up the vast majority of the Syrian population, and the U.S. has experienced significantly divided political opinions on how to manage the influx of refugees fleeing persecution. Slightly more than half of Fox News viewers said they believed the violence and threats against Muslims are on the rise, while nearly 3 in 4 MSNBC viewers said the same.
Danger Around the Country, by Media Preference
We polled our audience for their opinions on violence and danger in the U.S. and divided their responses based on whether they read Breitbart (a media outlet popular among conservatives) or Reddit (an online forum popular among liberals and moderates).
For the most part, Breitbart readers were significantly more likely to find danger and violence on the rise compared to Reddit readers. When asked about danger to the police, 3 in 4 Breitbart consumers believed it was on the rise, compared to less than half of Reddit users. Two in 3 Breitbart readers felt acts of terrorism were on the rise, compared to just over 1 in 3 Reddit readers. Overall, Reddit readers were more likely to say violent crime is holding steady or on the decline, while 43 percent of Breitbart readers said these crimes are on the rise.
However, Reddit readers were more likely to claim an increase when asked about mass shootings. Forty-six percent believed that mass shootings are increasing, while 39 percent of Breitbart readers said they are holding steady.
Real Safety and Security
Regardless of where your news comes from, there are dangers in the world you should be protecting yourself and your family from. According to the latest data from the FBI, violent crime such as murder, rape, assault and robberies remain high with over 800,000 reported offenses. Property crime like burglary, theft, and arson are also still rampant with over 4 million offenses recorded, resulting in more than $730 billion in losses. Protecting your family from these crimes also means protecting your home, whether you’re there or not.
We surveyed more than 1,000 Americans about their media consumption preferences, as well as their fears and concerns.
FAIR USE STATEMENT
We’re not fake news, so don’t be afraid to share the results of our study with your readers for any noncommercial purpose. We only ask that you ensure a link back to this page so our contributors earn credit for their work.