Voters’ views on the news media are so divergent that a statewide survey is describing California Republicans and Democrats as living in “alternate universes.”
The Berkeley IGS Poll, released late Wednesday, found nearly 80 percent of Republicans have little or no trust in the media and even more think coverage of President Donald Trump has been too critical.
Conversely, three-quarters of Democrats express confidence in the media, with a large majority believing reports about Trump are not critical enough.
“We’re living in a very hyper-partisan time when voters’ views about anything related to politics, and by extension the media, is colored by their own party affiliation and how they view politics,” said Poll Director Mark DiCamillo, a longtime public opinion researcher. “I have never seen it this way before, and I think it is a somewhat ominous development.”
Eroding trust in the media is also occurring nationally, with a Gallup Poll last fall finding just 32 percent of Americans have a great deal or a fair amount of trust, and the remainder expressing little or no confidence in media reporting. A separate Gallup Poll this year showed 36 percent of Americans believe the media has been too tough on Trump, while 28 percent said it was not tough enough. Democrats were divided between saying the coverage was about right, or not tough enough.
Assessing Trump’s first few months in office, 38 percent of California voters overall say coverage of him has been too negative. Forty-three percent say it’s not tough enough and just 19 percent view it as generally fair. Still, just over half of California voters report having a great deal or a fair amount of trust in news media.
Driving Californians’ higher esteem for the press is the larger percentage of Democratic voters here, who view media far more favorably than Republicans.
But DiCamillo stressed that the poll still underscores the “red” and “blue” lenses though which voters view the world.
More than 80 percent who backed Trump express little or no trust, compared with 77 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters who describe having a great deal or a fair amount of certainty in what they see and read in mass media.
“When looking at all the results,” DiCamillo said, “one thing that stands out is the depth of political polarization ... It’s the new normal.”
The Berkeley survey, conducted by the Institute of Governmental Studies, attempted to unscramble Californians’ views of what Trump describes as “fake news.”
Asked how well they can determine whether stories about politics or public affairs are newsworthy and reliable, only 30 percent of Californians say very well. Forty-five percent say somewhat well and a quarter say not very well.
Drilling down, Democrats view themselves as well equipped to sniff out “fake news,” with nearly 90 percent reporting they can determine reliable information very or somewhat well, versus just 52 percent of Republicans.