Here’s A Poll That The News Media Must Take Seriously…But They Won’t. Too Bad. For Everyone.

Rebel journalist Sharyl Attkisson engaged pollster Scott Rasmussen to measure public attitudes about the political news media. His results, which he discussed on her show, “Full Measure”:

  • 78% of voters say that  journalists  use their media platforms to promote their own agendas.
  • 14% think that journalists fairly report what the news.
  • Focusing only on national news reporters, 57% of those polled said reporters slant their output to advance their own political agendas,
  • Only 26% of those polled believe that national reporters restrict themselves to the facts.
  • 52%  believe the problem has become worse compared to five years ago.
  • 42% of Americans believe national political news coverage is inaccurate and unreliable, while less— 38%—believe it’s accurate and reliable.
  • 36% of voters believe that a journalist would fairly report facts that would hurt their favorite candidate.

Observations:

  • The specific numbers in the poll results can be challenged, for many reasons. If journalists are untrustworthy and biased, pollsters are more so. Rasmussen has the reputation as being a conservative-leaning pollster. Polls in general have been discredited, after the results of the 2016 election.

Furthermore, polls like this one mix apples and kumquats to reach a misleading conclusion. Conservatives many trust Fox News journalists, but fall into the 78% that believe that journalists are generally biased and slant the news for their own purposes. Progressives may be thinking of Fox News when they vote with the 78%.

  • Unfortunately, this gives journalists an opening to shrug off the general and undeniable message of the results, which is that the public no longer trusts journalists to be fair and ethical, as it once did to an overwhelming extent. The implication of that message is that the United States and its unique democratic  system are now without what the Founders regarded as an essential bulwark of freedom: a trustworthy, competent, independent press.

This is a calamity, but journalists refuse to recognize it for what it is. They have stubbornly refused to acknowledge their profession’s  drift from independence to partisan advocacy. They have settled on the cover story, which many or even most of them may believe, that it isn’t their abdication of journalism ethics that has reduced public trust, but the relentless attacks of those who their diligent reporting has threatened and exposed.  It is a comforting delusion, and a tragic one, because it prevents the profession from changing course before it has so damaged its credibility that recovery is impossible.

  • In particular, the mainstream news media is committed to the narrative that its plight is entirely the result of concerted efforts by President Trump to discredit the news media for his own purposes. The President would not have been successful in his framing of current reporting as “fake news” if journalists had not allowed their craft to be swallowed and dominated by “fake news” techniques that are obvious to anyone paying attention.

These include using anonymous sources  to justify stories based on speculation and rumors rather than hard facts; publicizing half-truths and stories omitting or burying crucial details that undermined the intended “narrative;” headlines that “poison the well” by spinning the facts of a story in a desired direction even before it is read;” the use of cherry-picked experts and academics for quotes to support a reporter’s opinion, avoiding balance rather than seeking it; “future news,” in which a theoretical  occurrence that has not happened and may never happen is used to attack a political figure and to raise public anxiety; the misuse and misrepresentation of statistics; slanted tone, in which the words used to describe an event subtly or blatantly characterize it, the repeated assertion of “Big Lies” as established facts, and more.

  • If we do not have a trustworthy news media, it is best that we know it.  In that regard, the poll is good news. As we head into a crucial election, the mainstream news media, as well as social media platforms and the big tech companies, are openly preparing to use their power and influence to decide America’s political direction. Their influence would be far greater if they were still operating under the naive assumptions of 50 years ago, when the vast majority of the public believed that journalists were fair, ethical, and reported facts. Now we know they lie, manipulate facts, bury stories, and bolster their favorites while sabotaging those they oppose.

The fascinating aspect of Rasmussen’s results is that 38% of the public say they trust the national news media. How blind, gullible, unread and ignorant does someone have to be to still say that? The number ought to be near zero. As it is, it gives us a numerical measure of those people Abe Lincoln talked about, who could be fooled all of the time.

I don’t understand how anyone of any political persuasion could read that transcript and avoid concluding that the New York Times has abandoned basic fairness and journalism ethics. I don’t understand how serious journalists, of any political preference, could read that transcript and not treat it as ice water in the face. The entire profession is in crisis, losing its soul, its purpose, its mission, its influence and its power, and that threatens the stability and viability of the United States.

The poll is just one more piece of evidence that proves a thesis that should need no more proof. The fact that the bias and narcissism of journalists prevent them from seeing this and acting on it suggests just how incompetent they are.

24 thoughts on “Here’s A Poll That The News Media Must Take Seriously…But They Won’t. Too Bad. For Everyone.

  1. This is just one of several aspects of the cold civil war that has been building in the US since Bush v. Gore. Propagandists do what they do. FoxNews was begun largely as a counter weight to the decades long monopoly of the left. (Not an excuse for their bias, just an explanation of it.)

    Perhaps you’ve noticed the rhetoric has been ramping up into the far greater use of violent and revolutionary words. This is by no means an accident.

    • FoxNews was begun largely as a counter weight to the decades long monopoly of the left.

      Not exactly. The creation of Fox News was a business decision based on market research, not on ideology.

      It’s important to remember that Rupert Murdoch once regularly pissed off the conservatives, most especially the evangelical right, with shows like Married with Children. Even The Simpsons was highly controversial at its launch.

      Murdoch had market research that showed that roughly a third of Americans thought the media tilted left. One third of Americans is a damned nice prospective market, regardless of what you sell. So recognizing the potential, Murdoch then got Roger Ailes to spearhead the project, and the rest is history.

    • I agree…no accident. I also believe the “old” phase is RAPIDLY coming to an end. See Portland (stay safe, Mrs. Q).

    • Actually I think it goes back to Vietnam and Watergate, maybe even to Edward R. Murrow’s hit piece on the JUNIOR (don’t forget to emphasize that, to diminish him) senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy. Journalists came to think of themselves as heroes. They’re the ones who “speak truth to power,” who “blow the whistle,” and who, if necessary, can bring down a president who’s abusing his position. The thing is, when last did you hear of a journalist “speaking truth to the power” of Obama or the Clintons? When last did a journalist “blow the whistle” on someone who wasn’t either a Republican or somehow a member of “the system?” Other than the current attacks on Trump and CBS’ attempt (mostly engineered by Mary Mapes and Dan Rather) to bring down George W. Bush based on a fake document, when last did a journalist try to bring down a president who was allegedly abusive? That’s what I thought.

      The fact of the matter is that everyone knows that the industry is run by and almost entirely populated by liberals who have been drinking too much of their own bath water and spend too much time looking at themselves in the mirror with a Robin Hood hat on. A journalist is someone who’s all for the little guy…unless he’s a small businessman or a believing Christian; who’s against execution but in favor of abortion; who’s all for free speech…unless it’s conservative speech; who’s strongly against corruption in office…unless the person has a D next to his name; who’s against war…except under a Democratic administration and is generally against the military and anything they do; who’s against civil disorder…unless it’s antifa, and is generally against the police and everything they do; is strongly against racism, except against whites; is strongly against sexism, except against men and when prominent Democrats decide to help themselves to the goods; is strongly for religious freedom, but not for Christians and especially not for Catholics; who insists on accuracy…except when it hurts the narrative: and who never met a liberal he didn’t like and trust or a conservative he didn’t dislike and distrust.

      In the journalist’s world there’s not a single Democrat who ever did anything other than try to make this world a better, fairer, more equal place, and there’s not a single Republican who ever did anything other than try to stuff his own pockets and exclude everyone except breeding conservatives from all important aspects of life. There’s not a single member of the military who wasn’t either a rabid, xenophobic killer (if rank and file) or either incompetent or a rising tyrant (if an officer). There’s not a single police officer who wasn’t either a stupid, hotheaded, racist bully who killed young black men for a hobby (if line) or a corrupt tyrant looking to stuff his own pockets (if high-ranking). There’s not a single young white man who isn’t a privileged rapist-in-hiding, just waiting for the chance. There’s not a single conservative jurist who isn’t either a racist, xenophobic tyrant or bought and paid for. There’s not a single corporation that isn’t doing something corrupt, and usually many corrupt things. There’s also not a single investigation into Republicans, the military, the police, young men, or corporations that comes up empty that should have, if it does, someone got to someone or someone hid his tracks too well.

      On the other hand, there’s not a single peace activist who was ever anything other than a moral giant trying to bring peace to a world in conflict. There’s not a single community activist who was ever trying to do anything but get justice for the little guy. There’s not a single young black man who was anything other than a nice, decent kid trying to find his way out of poverty. There’s not a single liberal judge who was ever trying to do anything other than extend equality to more people. There’s not a single young woman who ever lied about anything. There’s not a single former employee who ever lied about what went on where he worked. There’s not a single investigation into Democrats, activists, unions, young women’s stories, or disgruntled former employees that comes up empty that shouldn’t have. If it doesn’t, someone framed someone or hung someone out to dry.

      Most importantly, there’s no journalist, print, broadcast, independent or otherwise, who every gets it wrong, those idiots over at Fox and corporate shills at WSJ aside. How do you know? Because the journalists say so, and they never tell anything but the truth. They’re banking that most of America is either very dumb or very gullible, and that’s not a bad bet.

    • Agreed. Walter Cronkite was not the voice of unbiased reason. He was a lefty. I’m pretty sure all those guys were when we were kids and thought they were oracles (because they told us they were). Sam Donaldson was the breakout asshole journalist in my book. He was the first to be openly sneering and superior. The original Jim Acosta.

        • And humorless. Jim Acosta ain’t exactly Einstein but his hair is turning silver and he looks good from the neck up. Funny how Donaldson and Howard Cosell used pretty much the same shtick in their respective fields. But I think Howard was smarter and had a sense of humor and could be slyly self-deprecating. I think they also both used the same hair product, some combination of glue and black shoe polish.

  2. “Polls in general have been discredited, after the results of the 2016 election.”

    I think I’m fairly consistently critical of polls, there is a certain amount of wiggle room pollsters can operate in, and it just so happens that some pollsters tend to skew to one side of the other on the political spectrum. Added to that, there’s some kind of modified Bradley effect in play, and had been for the last 20 years… I can’t tell whether that’s because conservatives are less likely to be at home when a call is made, whether conservatives are less likely to take that call, whether it’s because they’re just embarrassed to admit they’re conservative, or whether everyone was telling the truth but conservatives actually show up to vote, but there is a trend for conservative candidates to average a couple of points higher than their average poll.

    All that said… I don’t think that the 2016 election polls were bad, nevermind egregiously bad.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationwide_opinion_polling_for_the_2016_United_States_presidential_election#Polls_conducted_in_2016

    Most polls called a close race, some had Trump ahead, some had Clinton ahead, neither often by more than 5%, for most of July, basically all the polls were within the margin of error for the popular vote. That seems…. Kind of as legit as polls get.

    • That’s one crazy Wiki article. (Why are we looking at a Jeb Bush v. Hillary graph?) The mains thing the polls missed was that here was no “Blue Wall,” and thus the assumptions about the electoral college were wrong. They also failed to identify where the 2-3% Clinton advantage was in the popular vote: California. Also, pollsters were going on TV and saying that Hillary was virtually certain to win.

      Since the polls virtually all had Hillary ahead all year, they cumulatively gave the impression that she was a lock. You can’t say they acquitted themselves well when they got the final result backwards.

      • “Why are we looking at a Jeb Bush v. Hillary graph?”

        Because that wiki article has all the polls for the entire election cycle, and you might have expanded an older set. Jeb led in 2013. The polls recorded the highest polling Democrat against the highest polling Republican, whoever they might be, and Trump wasn’t locked in until mid-2016.

        As to the rest of it… I think that’s a fair summary, but let’s be real: It was a unique race. Could they have predicted a Trump win? I don’t know. The data was what the data was… It was a damned close race… The pollsters were predicting Hillary to win, but most of them weren’t spouting off complete bunk like CNN with their notorious 98/2 infographics.

  3. Jack writes: “Unfortunately, this gives journalists an opening to shrug off the general and undeniable message of the results, which is that the public no longer trusts journalists to be fair and ethical, as it once did to an overwhelming extent. The implication of that message is that the United States and its unique democratic system are now without what the Founders regarded as an essential bulwark of freedom: a trustworthy, competent, independent press.”

    Allow me to suggest a troubling notion: if people believed journalists in some former time, they did so because they were gullible and somewhat stupidly innocent.

    If the Founders believed that a ‘trustworthy, competent, independent press’ is essential, the first thing that happened was that journalism was corrupted by powerful people and interests. All that one has to do is to study the history of journalism in the US (and possibly everywhere) to see where, how and why it became corrupted.

    There is a connection between what is called Big Business, big media, government, and also education-systems (Academia). If one wishes to discover and understand how power abuses ‘democratic processes’, one can easily get all the information. If one wishes not to see and understand how this happens, one can close one’s eyes and mind.

    It is because the US is a unique democratic system . . . that democracy is determining the direction of the US in a direction many (here) do not like.

    The issue of the day is that no one can define what America they define and support. There is not ‘one America’. There are numerous.

    What would “a trustworthy, competent, independent press” report on today? This is very complex, non-simple. Would such a ‘trustworthy’ press report on one issue I have identified as crucial? (White dispossession). Would they critique, without mercy, the Multicultural Ethos that has been constructed through propaganda manipulations? I could name a dozen hot topics which are off-limits for average citizens. Can you imagine a morning talk-show actually discussing the real and crucial topics?

    Since this is an impossibility under the present dispensation a wiser starting point is to recognize that this is so.

    If one takes the Times as the leader in the present Maoist journalism phase and activity (which it is, at least from my perspective) then one can say that we do not have an ‘independent’ press. We have one profoundly involved in social engineering. However, most everyone who writes on this blog accepts, generally, the engineered perspective and they define ‘America’ in those engineered terms. They only complain — now — because they just became aware where this is going and how it will affect their interests!

    A civil crisis is developing, and it is one of those out of which political separations and secessions have formed in other times, places and nations, and it all has to do with fundamental definitions that are supra-democratic.

  4. A large part of the root of the problem is that journalists, as a group, just aren’t that smart. Certainly they think they’re smart (and waste no opportunity to tell us how intelligent they think they are), but very few dumb people know that they’re dumb. Journalism schools and programs tend to be much easier to get into than most other college degrees. That doesn’t mean that only idiots are in the profession, of course, but it does guarantee a higher proportion of mediocrities than more rigorous fields, like computer science or architecture.

    Just look at the higher-profile journalists working on a national level, think about how incompetent, uninformed, biased, incurious, and vacuous they are, and reflect that these people are the ones who have risen to the top of the profession. Yikes.

      • Journalists give liberal arts majors a BAD name. Journalists think they’re experts about any and every thing because they write articles about them. They also never make a mistake. Because they never have to make a decision. They’re kibitzers. Nothing more.

  5. I’m interested in the reference to the founders’ concept of a free press. My father remembered when there were dozens of newspapers in each major city, each of which openly identified their particular editorial policy which was closely allied to political points of view. Then, around a 100 years ago, came newspaper advertising which changed all that. Newspapers started adjusting their editorial policies so as not to offend potential advertisers. Those that understood the advertising business flourished and the others were left behind to wallow in obscurity and then die. Now, we have the internet and social media where individuals and groups can push their own ideologies but all are not so open about where they stand. I’m not so sure a free press, as the founders envisioned, is possible or has been for a very long time.

  6. The journo/publishing model is broken. First and foremost, NYT et al. are businesses. They put stories in the paper and on the TV or a website to sell subscriptions and, mostly, ads. They put up headlines and pictures above the fold to catch your eye. They claim to do so for other reasons and claim to have integrity. But everyone just follows the money. Integrity is cheap. Easily for sale.

    It is not seriously different than a lot of politicians or a lot of corporate CEOs. But it is wrong.

    Which among the big media companies is the most even handed and unbiased? Is it the most popular or the most profitable or is there more money in not being even and unbiased?

  7. “headlines that “poison the well” by spinning the facts of a story in a desired direction even before it is read;”

    Like this one?

    https://finance.yahoo.com/m/4ec000bf-2427-3d84-b5e6-29644cd41a3d/trump-tweets-claim-that-he%e2%80%99s.html

    Clearly the headline is designed to make the reader believe that the tweets in question come from the President, but the article makes it clear from the beginning that it’s quoting someone who is, apparently, a rather over-the-top fan of his. Yet, if you read the Yahoo comments’ section, it’s pretty obvious that plenty of readers only read the headline and went straight to bashing Trump as if the tweets came from him, including several that reference the 25th Amendment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.