2017-05-24 17:34:51 UTC
By Jonathan Easley - 05/24/17 10:10 AM EDT
Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the mainstream press is full of fake
news, a sentiment that is held by a majority of voters across the
According to data from the latest Harvard-Harris poll, which was
provided exclusively to The Hill, 65 percent of voters believe there is
a lot of fake news in the mainstream media.
That number includes 80 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of
independents and 53 percent of Democrats. Eighty-four percent of voters
said it is hard to know what news to believe online.
“Much of the media is now just another part of the partisan divide in
the country with Republicans not trusting the ‘mainstream’ media and
Democrats seeing them as reflecting their beliefs,” said Harvard-Harris
co-director Mark Penn. “Every major institution from the presidency to
the courts is now seen as operating in a partisan fashion in one
direction or the other.”
President Trump has railed against the “fake news” media, casting the
press as the “opposition party” and opening the White House to
once-fringe outlets, to the frustration of the mainstream press.
The president’s critics have accused him of using the “fake news”
moniker for any story that casts him in a negative light.
Many conservatives believe the media has dramatically loosened its
reporting standards when it comes to Trump, taking an anything-goes
approach and running with anonymously sourced material that it would
never print about a more traditional Republican or Democratic
A cottage industry of conservative media critics has sprung up online to
draw attention to the salacious details about Trump that spread across
social media or are aggregated countless times before they’re revealed
to be mischaracterized or untrue.
The net affect is that Trump’s image, and public trust in the media, are
at all-time lows.
Trump’s job approval rating is at 45 percent approval and 55 percent
disapproval in the latest Harvard-Harris survey. Gallup’s annual survey
on public trust in the media — conducted before the election — found
that only 32 percent trusted the press.
However, the Harvard-Harris survey found that 60 percent of all voters
believe Trump is treating the press unfairly. Only 48 percent said the
media is treating Trump unfairly.
“Voters show concern about direct attacks on the media by the president
even when they have questions about it,” Penn said.
The Trump administration has been dogged by an unprecedented string of
government leaks in recent weeks that have played out in the major
newspapers, including media stories about the president asking fired FBI
Director James Comey to pull back from an investigation and another
about how he revealed classified information about a terrorist plot to
Russian diplomats during an Oval Office meeting.
At hearings on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, former CIA director John Brennan
and director of national intelligence Dan Coats expressed deep concerns
with the leaks, which were printed in the New York Times and Washington
Seventy-four percent of voters say the leaks are a serious matter that
should be investigated, including 84 percent of Democrats.
However, 62 percent say that journalistic organizations that publish
information — even if it is received illegally, through hacking — should
be protected by law.
“It is very clear in the poll that overwhelming majorities of the
country take leaks and potential political unmasking of members of the
Trump campaign in wiretapped conversations merit full and even
independent investigation,” Penn said.
The Harvard-Harris online survey of 2,006 registered voters was
conducted between May 17 and May 20. The partisan breakdown is 36
percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican, 29 percent independent and 3
percent other. The poll uses a methodology that doesn't produce a
traditional margin of error.
The Harvard–Harris Poll is a collaboration of the Harvard Center for
American Political Studies and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working
with Harvard-Harris throughout 2017. Full poll results will be posted
online later this week.