Pew Survey: Americans Think News Orgs Are Politically Biased, Inaccurate

Viewers still say loss of those organizations would be major loss

Most Americans think news organizations are politically biased and often inaccurate, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

Despite that view, they still say that the demise of those news organizations would be a major loss.

Television remains the dominant source for national and local news, beating out the Internet and newspapers, with TV stations cited as doing the most to "uncover and report on important local issues."

A majority of those surveyed by the Pew Research Center (63%) said that news stories are often inaccurate, while only 29% said they even "generally" get the facts straight.

That is the lowest accuracy level in more than 20 years, according to Pew. By contrast, 55%  said they were accurate and 34% inaccurate in the inaugural survey in 1985.

About the same majority (60%) say news organizations are politically biased, while only 26% say they are not. And their belief that those news media are "independent of powerful people" (20%) and willing to make mistakes (21%) are also at all-time lows.

Views toward leading news nets Fox and CNN continued to be divided along heavily partisan lines, with three quarters of Democrats having a favorable view of CNN, but only 44% of Republicans, while 76% of Republicans had a favorable view of Fox compared to only 43% of Democrats.

There was a similar, though less pronounced difference of opinion about MSNBC, with 60% of Democrats having a favorable opinion vs. 34% of Republicans. The majority of both Republicans (64%) and Democrats (81%) had a favorable view of broadcast network TV news.

One finding revealed the relative inability of the respondents to say whether or not they liked the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Again, a majority of Republicans (53%) and Democrats (53%) said they didn't know or could not decide whether they had a favorable unfavorable view. Independents (54%) were equally stymied.

There was a similar response to the The Wall Street Journal, but even more Republicans (55%) than Democrats 49%) couldn't say whether or not they like it.

Television was the dominant source for national and international news for 71% of the respondents, almost as many as chose the Internet (43%) and newspapers (33%) combined. It was also the top source for local news, the choice of 41% of those surveyed.

Close to half (44%) said that local TV stations "do the most to uncover."

Eight out of 10 people say that if local TV news shows went off the air and their Web sites shut down, it would be an "important loss," while 76% said the same about the sunsetting of network TV news; 75% about cable news, 74% about local newspapers and 68% about "large national newspapers."

While network TV evening newscasts tend to skew older, actually more people aged 18-29 (83%) said it would be an important loss than people 60-plus (74%).

The biennial phone survey was conducted July 22-26 among 1,506 adults on both landlines and cell phones.