Sunday, July 13, 2003

Americans want their journalists to show some patriotism, respect the public, increase accuracy and lessen bias, according to a poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released yesterday.

Seventy percent of the respondents said news organizations should embrace “a decidedly ‘pro-American’ viewpoint,” the poll stated; among conservative Republicans, that figure stood at 85 percent. In comparison, 51 percent said the organizations “stand up for America.”

Forty-six percent feel the press have become too critical of the United States — and the public.

In the survey, 56 percent said “journalists do not care about the people they report on” and 58 percent said that news organizations “do not pay attention” when the public complains about their inaccuracies.

And a majority believe bias still plagues the press.

“Most Americans (53 percent) believe that news organizations are politically biased, while just 29 percent say they are careful to remove bias from their reports,” the poll said.

More than half — 51 percent — say that the bias is “liberal,” while 26 percent discerned a “conservative” leaning. Fourteen percent felt neither phrase applied. Two-thirds of Republicans thought the bias is liberal, with 41 percent of Democrats agreeing. A third of Democrats said there was a conservative slant in the news media, the poll found.

The respondents had definite opinions on specific topics: Two-thirds felt that “war coverage” should be neutral, though 47 percent said having TV “hosts with strong opinions about politics” was desirable.

Two-thirds of the respondents also felt the press was preoccupied with bad news, and 70 percent said the press was “influenced by powerful people and organizations,” up from 53 percent in a poll taken in 1985.

Thirty-six percent said the press “usually gets facts straight,” and 62 percent said it tried to “cover up mistakes.” Fifty-eight percent said reporters either “frequently” or “occasionally” make up their stories.

While the public is mostly satisfied with the amount of news coverage of Iraq and the Middle East, Hillary fatigue has set in. Fifty-five percent said there was too much coverage of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new memoirs. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans felt the New York Democrat had gotten too much attention; 40 percent of Democrats agreed.

One in five Americans turns to Fox News Channel for their news, the poll found, with 41 percent calling themselves Republicans and 47 percent seeing themselves as conservatives. Two-thirds of Fox viewers consider the press liberal, 65 percent said it was too critical of America, 74 percent approve of President Bush’s job performance and 40 percent think the press has been too critical of Mr. Bush. Sixty percent say that press criticism of the military weakens the nation’s defenses.

In comparison, 40 percent of CNN viewers felt the criticism weakened the nation, 48 percent said the press was overly critical of America, 47 percent felt it was liberal and 21 percent felt the press was too critical of Mr. Bush. Twenty-four percent felt it was not critical enough of the president. Among CNN viewers, 29 percent said they were Republicans and 36 percent called themselves conservatives.

The poll of 1,201 adults was conducted June 19-July 2.

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