Most Americans Say News Media Don’t Understand ‘People Like Them’: Poll

June 25, 2020 Updated: June 25, 2020

A recent Pew poll found that almost sixty percent of Americans believe news organizations “don’t understand people like them” and nearly eighty percent believe the media are biased.

“Overall, 59 percent of Americans think news organizations do not understand people like them, while a minority—37 percent—say they do feel understood,” the Pew Research Center said in a note explaining the results of the survey, which was based on a random sample of 10,300 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

The findings regarding being misunderstood by the media were similar across racial lines, with 58 percent of blacks, 55 percent of Hispanics, and 61 percent of whites indicating the media did not understand them. But the reasons for the misunderstanding varied across groups.

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Freshly printed copies of the San Francisco Chronicle roll off the printing press at one of the Chronicle’s printing facilities in San Francisco, Cali., on Sept. 20, 2007. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Black Americans said that personal characteristics (34 percent) were the factor that news media were most likely to misunderstand about them, followed by social and economic class (31 percent), personal interests (16 percent), and political views (15 percent).

Hispanic Americans said that social and economic class (29 percent) was most likely the aspect that was misunderstood about them, followed by political views (27 percent), personal interests (26 percent), and personal characteristics (17 percent).

White Americans said that news organizations misunderstood about them to the greatest degree was their political views (39 percent), followed by social and economic class (31 percent), personal interests (17 percent), and personal characteristics (10 percent).

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A vendor sells a newspaper at the San Francisco Municipal Railway station in San Francisco, Cali., on Sept. 21, 2007. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Considered in aggregate, Americans who responded to the poll said that the factor that news organizations misunderstand the most about them is their political views (34 percent). This was followed by social and economic class (30 percent), personal interests (18 percent), and personal characteristics (16 percent).

Pew asked a number of other questions as part of the survey (pdf), including questions about whether they believed the Ukrainian or the Russian governments interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and “how much, if anything, have you heard or read about QAnon?”

When asked the question, “In presenting the news dealing with political and social issues, do you think that news media organizations deal fairly with all sides?” just twenty percent answered in the affirmative. The proportion of people who believe the media “tend to favor one side” came in at 79 percent, according to supplemental data from Pew.

People were also asked whether they had recently seen any stories about politics or the presidential election that “seemed completely made-up,” to which 35 percent said yes.

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