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A shift toward online news consumption, combined with greater political polarization, has altered the media landscape. As part of its Trust, Media and Democracy initiative, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation partnered with Gallup to create NewsLens — an experimental platform and news aggregator first developed in 2017 to facilitate novel research on how people interact with the news online in a manner that offers insights to academics, technology policymakers and journalists.In theis report, Gallup examines data gathered through NewsLens during the 2020 presidential campaign to assess how much partisanship influences the way people engage with news content and whether common ground still exists over which stories are considered good journalism.
The news media, like many other major U.S. institutions, has suffered from a decline in public confidence in recent years. A key question for the future of the news media, as well as for U.S. democracy, is whether that trust is lost for good. In this report, part of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Trust, Media and Democracy initiative, Gallup asked a representative sample of U.S. adults to discuss key factors that make them trust, or not trust, news media organizations.
This report is based on data collected between Nov. 8, 2019, and Feb. 16, 2020, just before the novel coronavirus became a global pandemic and the burgeoning movement for racial justice swept the nation. The low levels of public trust in the nation's polarized media environment have left open the possibility for dangerous false narratives to take root in all segments of society during these emergent crises. At a time when factual, trustworthy information is especially critical to public health and the future of our democracy, the striking trends documented in these pages are cause for concern. American Views offers new insights into how the public is responding to these challenges in their own media consumption and their thoughts about how to address them.
The internet has brought with it seemingly unbridled opportunities for personal expression to mass audiences, thanks to social media apps like Facebook and Twitter and blog sites like Medium. However, with freedom of expression come opportunities for people to share false, offensive, harmful and even injurious content on digital platforms. As more aspects of our lives increasingly move online, we must contend with operating in a digital public square owned by private entities — one where freedom of expression falls not under the purview of the First Amendment, but under emergent standards being shaped by technology companies. Such challenges have taken on an increased urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Americans turning to social media for interaction and information and finding the platforms awash in false claims and conspiracy theories that threaten health.
A crisis faces local newsrooms across the nation. News publishers have, for over a decade, competed with search engines and digital platforms, not only for their readers' attention, but also for advertising revenue. At the same time, we have seen decades of growing distrust and partisan antipathy toward institutions of all kinds, including journalism. Local newspapers are especially vulnerable to these trends. As a result, there have been waves of consolidation, often resulting in fewer newsroom jobs. Particularly controversial have been acquisitions of newspapers by private equity investors, often followed by debate about how the newsroom is managed by its new ownership.This Gallup/Knight Foundation study seeks to better understand whether Americans care about the fate of local news organizations, what they value about these organizations and what could be done to make more of these organizations financially sustainable. The results are sobering, but they also point toward potential solutions for addressing some of the economic challenges facing many local news organizations.
As part of its ongoing Trust, Media and Democracy initiative, the John S. and James L.Knight Foundation partnered with Gallup to ask a representative sample of U.S. adults for their views on the news editorial functions played by major internet companies.
First Amendment freedoms continue to be tested on U.S. college campuses as higher education institutions strive to achieve goals that can occasionally come into conflict. These include encouraging the open discussion of ideas and exposing students to people of different backgrounds and viewpoints while making all students feel included and respected on campus. In 2016, Gallup, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Newseum Institute conducted a landmark, nationally representative study of college students. The survey found that students believed First Amendment freedoms were secure, and they generally preferred that campuses be open environments that encourage a wide range of expression. However, students supported restrictions on certain types of speech, such as hate speech, and many were sympathetic to students' attempts to deny the press access to campus protests, such as those that occurred over race-related issues in the 2015-16 school year.
Technological advances have made it easier for Americans to connect with each other and to find information, including details about the major issues facing the country. But those advances present both challenges and opportunities for individuals and U.S. institutions. Not only is more information readily available, but so is more misinformation, and many consumers may not be able to easily discern the difference between the two.Amid the changing informational landscape, media trust in the U.S. has been eroding, making it harder for the news media to fulfill their democratic responsibilities of informing the public and holding government leaders accountable. Results of the 2017 Gallup/Knight Foundation Survey on Trust, Media and Democracy show that most Americans believe it is now harder to be well-informed and to determine which news is accurate. They increasingly perceive the media as biased and struggle to identify objective news sources. They believe the media continue to have a critical role in our democracy but are not very positive about how the media are fulfilling that role.The research reported here is based on a nationally representative mail survey of more than 19,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older. This project received support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Open Society Foundations.