Poll: 58 Percent of Americans Say Media Does Not Understand People Like Them

'Time Magazine' copies / Getty Images
January 24, 2019

A recent Pew Research poll found that a majority of Americans believe they are misunderstood by the national news media.

Fifty-eight percent of American adults responded in the poll that new organizations don't understand people like them. Only 40 percent responded that the media does understand them.

Republicans are the most likely to report that the media does not understand them at 73 percent, and Independents are not too far behind at 62 percent. Democrats are the only demographic group with a majority who responded that they do feel understood by the media, at 58 percent.

The same study shows Americans are also more likely to say they do not feel "connected" to the outlet they get most of their news from, 56 percent to 42 percent. Again, Democrats buck the trend, with 54 percent saying they do feel connected.

Only 30 percent of respondents said media tends to treat both sides fairly when reporting on political or social issues. Sixty-eight percent instead say the media tends to favor one side. Democrats are the most likely to believe the media treats both sides fairly at 47 percent, while only 13 percent of Republicans agree.

A large majority of Americans say that they go into national news stories expecting they will be largely accurate. But when the media gets things wrong, 68 percent of Americans believe the outlets "try to cover up their mistakes," compared to only 30 percent who say they admit their mistakes.

Pew also found a large, partisan swing in Americans' attitudes towards media criticism of politicians. In 2016, the last year of President Barack Obama's term in office, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to agree that "media criticism of political leaders keeps them from doing things they shouldn't." By 2018, Democrats were more than twice as likely than Republicans to agree, 82 percent to 42 percent.