Hail to the press: 85% of Americans believe media is integral to democracy

PAWLEYS ISLAND, S. C. — Freedom of the press was outlined in the first amendment to the United States Constitution, and for good reason. The press, or in more modern terminology, the media, are an essential ingredient to true democracy. Accurate and investigative reporting holds the powers-that-be accountable for their actions, and serves to enlighten the people with the information they need in order to make informed voting decisions. The role of the media in contemporary American politics has come under intense scrutiny during the Trump presidency, but a new survey finds that the vast majority of Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, still believe the media is an important aspect of American democracy.

In all, of the 1,037 U.S. adults who took part in the research, 85% agree the media is important to democracy. More than half (52%) also feel the media is very important. Broken down by party affiliations, 76% of surveyed Republicans, 95% of Democrats, and 89% of independents said the media is important.

At a time when it feels like different generations of Americans have never been more at odds with one another, most Americans of all ages can at least agree that the press still serves a very important function in U.S. democracy. Separated by generation, 84% of surveyed Generation Z-ers, 82% of Generation X-ers, 82% of Baby Boomers, 81% of the Greatest Generation, and 93% of Millennials all agreed that the media is an important part of a balanced democracy. Furthermore, seven in ten (69%) surveyed Millennials called the media very important.

Of course, rather predictably, when it came to feelings regarding the media’s treatment of President Trump, there were some stark differences of opinion among respondents. A full two-thirds (68%) of all respondents said that it is dangerous when President Trump calls the media “the enemy of the people,” but less than half (46%) of surveyed Republicans shared the same sentiment. That’s quite a difference in comparison to the 88% of Democrats who reported disagreeing with Trump’s stance on the media.

Overall, 64% said they believe the media are biased against the current presidential administration. That opinion, though, is much more prominent among surveyed Republicans (90%) than Democrats (42%). Meanwhile, 62% of independents believe the media actively works to undermine President Trump.

Respondents were also asked about specific cable news stations, and the results may surprise some. Interestingly, 26% said that Fox News does the best job reporting accurate news with no bias, 24% said the same for CNN, and 11% said they believe MSNBC is un-biased. However, another 26% said that none of those three channels are un-biased, and 14% were undecided.

Over two in five (44%) of surveyed Republicans reported Fox News as their go-to source for “straight news,” 17% said CNN is the most un-biased, and 24% of Republicans said all three major news options are biased. Regarding Democrats, 36% see CNN as the most legitimate news channel, 18% prefer MSNBC, 16% think Fox News does the best job, and 19% believe all three are biased.

The survey was conducted by Regina Corso Consulting.