Partisan press perception

News of the war in Iraq has its believers — and its skeptics.

Republicans continue to have strong confidence in the information they receive from the U.S. military on the situation, coupled with an overwhelming distrust of the mainstream press and its portrayal of the war in Iraq. Among Democrats, the sentiments are reversed.

Though they remain dubious of the military’s version, the majority of Democrats still trust the news media for information on the war, according to a survey released yesterday by the Pew Research Center.

The majority of Republicans — 73 percent — remain confident they are getting the straight story about the Iraq war from those who are fighting it, though that sentiment certainly is not set in stone. Four years ago, 94 percent of Republicans said they had confidence in the military’s outreach.

But Republican confidence in the press depictions of Iraq is at 29 percent.

On his return earlier this week from a trip to Iraq, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said the nation is not getting a “full picture” of obvious progress made by the U.S. in the country.

Indeed, few news organizations heeded Army Maj. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, the Joint Staff’s deputy director for operations, who announced March 30 that attacks against Iraqi civilians were down 20 percent, civilian deaths down 30 percent nationwide and civilian death in Baghdad down by 50 percent.

Democrats, meanwhile, mostly dismiss what they hear from the Pentagon. Thirty-two percent said they had confidence in information about the war from military sources. The figure stood at 78 percent in 2003.

The majority still trusts the media: 51 percent said they had confidence in print or broadcast sources. But the confidence is waning; the figure stood at 78 percent four years ago.

“There is now a substantial partisan divide in how these two institutions are viewed,” the survey said.

The American public falls somewhere in the middle. The survey found that nearly half — 46 percent — said they had either a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in information they received about the war from military sources. The press received a nod of approval from 38 percent.

“Opinion about how these institutions portray the war has mirrored the public’s perception of how well the war is going. Fully 90 percent of the public said the war effort was going ‘very well’ or ‘fairly well’ in the early days of the invasion compared with 40 percent who express this view today,” the poll found.

Still, public interest is high — 71 percent of the respondents continue to follow Iraq closely. Last week, the war drew more attention than news of late starlet Anna Nicole Smith, Iran’s taking of British hostages, partisan disagreements over U.S. attorneys and the 2008 presidential campaign, the research found.

The survey of 1,038 adults was conducted March 30 to April 2 and has a margin of error of three percentage points.

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