In August of 2012, the Pew Research Center published a report on a poll conducted in late July on the perceived believability of newspapers, cable news, and network news. The poll also checked the perceived believability of local newspapers and broadcasts.
Using a 4-point scale, respondents were asked to assign a number on 13 news organizations relating to how accurate they believe the organizations to be. Aside from examining the previously mentioned areas, the study also examined the perception of news organizations between Republicans and Democrats. Overall believability in news organizations has sharply declined since 2002. In 2002, 71% or individuals who could answer the question assigned a positive rating of 3 or 4, 30% assigned a negative rating of 1 or 2. In 2012, the positive rating had dropped to 56% while the negative rating had increased to 44%.
The newspapers that were used were the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, and the local newspaper. Believability for all four dropped since 2002. The New York Times and USA Today dropped to from the mid to low 60s to 49%, the Wall Street Journal dropped from 77% to 58%, while local newspapers saw the least significant drop (64% to 57%).
Cable and local news still has general positive ratings, but these ratings have declined since 2002. CNN (76% to 58%) and MSNBC (73% to 50%) both maintained at least 50% overall believability. Fox News dropped just below the 50% mark (67% to 49%). Local TV news barely changed, as it stayed in the mid 60s (68% to 65%).
Network news maintained a relatively high credibility rating compared to newspapers and cable news. In 2002, ABC, CBS, and NBC News all had a believability rating of 72%. Ten years later, the numbers fell to 59%, 57%, and 55%. 60 Minutes went from 77% to 64% while NPR went from 62% to 52%.
When political affiliation is brought into the mix, the results change dramatically. Of the 13 organizations, Republicans were found to trust only five of them. These were 60 Minutes (51%), Wall Street Journal (57%), USA Today (50%), Local TV News (68%), and Fox News (67%). Democrats were the opposite. with the majority trusting all the organizations with the exception of Fox News (37%). Independents were in the middle. trusting eight organizations. As with Democrats, Fox News was the lowest scoring organization, with 43%.
While the poll and results do not discuss news analysis or are an example of it, the results show the problems that using only news analysis can cause. The issue that was examined was not the accuracy of the news that these organizations report on but the perceived accuracy. As the poll shows, there has been a decline in the perception of accuracy in news media. This in turn harms a method such as news analysis, a method that relies on these organizations for sources.
This poll also shows the biases that political leanings can cause and how they can be exploited. An example of possible exploitation is knowing the political leanings of a management team or CEO and releasing false information on certain networks or newspapers. These biases could lead to higher deception is exploited properly.
As for the study itself, there are some elements that could be improved on. One element that was done correctly was using a four point scale. By keeping the range simple, this avoided confusion that using a scale of 1 to 10 can cause. The biggest item that the study missed out on was polling on the believability of online news sources. Polling on the perceived believability of online news sources would have made this report more beneficial to the intelligence community, as the majority of sources that we use in our program are online.
Source: (2012). Further Decline in Credibility Ratings for Most News Organizations. The Pew Research Center for the People and Press. Retrieved from http://www.people-press.org/files/2012/08/8-16-2012-Media-Believability1.pdf