Survey: Few countries dislike their media as much as Americans

You know what looks like a great place? Canada.

Just look at today’s evidence. A survey from Pew about how people feel about their news media.

Canada is just one giant warm hug. The U.S.? Not so much.

People in Russia — Russia! — are more likely to feel their news media is doing their job well than Americans are, the survey says.

Sixty-eight percent of Russians think their news media does a good job of covering political leaders. This is in a country where opponents to the sitting president have a habit of turning up dead.

Americans? Fifty-eight percent think so about their media.

In fact, of the countries surveyed, Americans are among the least likely to think their news media does a good job of covering important events, Pew says.

The U.S. is also one of only a few countries where governing party supporters are less satisfied with their news media than are nonsupporters. In most countries, people who support the political party currently in power are more satisfied with the performance of their news media than those who do not support the governing party.

For example, in Sweden, the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party are the two parties that currently form the governing coalition in the country. About eight-in-ten Swedes (82%) who identify with these two parties say their news media do a good job of covering political issues fairly. Just 58% of Swedes who do not identify with these two parties agree.

The partisan gaps found in the survey indicate that, rather than being consistently tied to a particular ideological position, satisfaction with the news media across the globe is more closely related to support for the party in power – whether that party is left or right.

Public satisfaction with the news media also links closely to trust in one’s national government and a sense that the economy is doing well, which reinforces the point that, for most countries surveyed here, satisfaction with the media aligns with satisfaction on other country conditions rather than along a left-right spectrum.

It’s all honey and hugs for Canadians, though, where 82 percent of those surveyed think their news media does a good job of reporting important events.

Overall, Pew said there’s a correlation between trust in the news media and trust in government. The same is true with the economy. If people think the economy is doing well, they’re more inclined to think the news media is too.

  • jon

    What’s going on in south korea?!

    Also would have loved to see an accurate survey out of north korea, and their opinion of their state run media… I know why that’s an impossibility… but still would have liked to see it.

    • QuietBlue

      South Korea has had a pretty tumultuous couple of years in terms of domestic politics, what with all the scandals, the impeachment of their president, etc. I’m guessing that has a lot to do with it.

  • ec99

    “Canada is just one giant warm hug.”

    Peter Mansbridge and Rex Murphy have always been beloved.

  • Jerry

    People don’t hate “The Media”, they hate “The Other Side’s Media”.

  • Guest

    “Where nary was heard a discouraging word”

    I think this points out that Canada versus Kenya & Ghana truly have different expectations & culture than is shown by being on the same graph location.

    I wonder how many in Tanzania figured this was a government run survey 🙂

    • John

      How independent from government control are the “media” of Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania? My (gleaned from the apparently distrusted American media) understanding is not very. Might influence one’s answers to the questions if one thinks the incorrect answer could make life uncomfortable.

  • MikeB

    Talk radio has made a cottage industry of hating the media. It has now spread to social media. It’s blaming the messenger.

    • Jerry

      But when I hate talk radio, I’m also hating media. So, everyone hates media.

      • MikeB

        My guess is that the US has the largest media consumption habit, all while hating “the media”

        • Jerry

          Much like an elderly Fox News watcher.

    • thesheeplewillhavetheirsay

      No, Mike. They have brought it on themselves. They have completely and utterly discredited themselves… help needed.

  • Rob

    I like most of the reality-based U.S. media just fine. They aren’t perfect, but they sure as hell beat the alternative.

  • Erick

    I will admit it, when I hear the happy talk that passes for journalism on shows like “Morning Edition” I sort of hate the Media too.

    • ec99

      Nothing new about that. Decades ago Dave Moore was complaining about what WCCO news had become.

    • Hamliner

      Pet peeve: when need for access leads to politicians getting away with “no content” answers because the debate moderator or reporter almost can’t say, “BUT YOU DIDN’T ANSWER THE QUESTION.” Result: happy talk

      • I wish my 2004 “You Didn’t Answer the Question” essay from the Democratic National Convention in Boston was still available online somewhere (it’s probably there, but good luck finding it).

        A reporter can say it anytime and still get access. I’m convinced too many interviewers dont’ even listen to the answers — and non answers– they’re getting. They’re just waiting for the next opening to ask their prepared question. There are exceptions, of course.

        • Ah, found it, thanks to Wayback Machine.
          The one thought you hear constantly during this convention, of course, is the fact that there’s no news. There’s plenty of news, just nobody to give it to you. We’re in a sound bite world and the political experts figured that out a long time ago. I’m reminded of an episode of The West Wing in which Sam Seeborn is running for Congress in Orange County and Toby Ziegler tells him to remember these words, “Orange County has miles of beautiful beaches that deserve to be protected.”

          “But what if they (reporters) ask about the tax plan?” Sam says.

          “Answer with these words: Orange County has miles of beautiful beaches that deserve to be protected,” Toby advises.

          And that’s the way politicians “get their message out,” as opposed to answer the questions posed by reporters on behalf of, well, you.

          But it takes two to tango and if the media weren’t so crazy about having something that “sounds” like news, perhaps we’d stop settling for what passes for it. Perhaps if our stories were “politician XYZ refused to answer a question about …,” maybe they’d start answering.

          On Monday, a few of us Midwest reporters — very few — went to a briefing with a distinguished panel of Kerry strategists for Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Minnesota with Bill Knapp, a senior Kerry strategist.

          You’re not going to believe it, but this is the story they wanted us to write, “Kerry is better than Bush and we’re confident we’re going to win.” In a half-hour assessment of these states, we were told that the Republicans are spending too much time trying to lock up conservative votes, which they “should’ve locked up by now,” Knapp said. He highlighted several Republican states in which Kerry is competitive as an example of having to take care of business now that should’ve been taken care of by now.

          I finally moved to the front of the near-empty room and asked “Minnesota is a traditionally Democratic state, yet John Kerry is in a statistical dead heat with George Bush, a Republican. Why? What is the weakness that nearly half the voters see in John Kerry?”

          Well, of course, it’s a sucker’s question. They’re not going to say anything negative about their candidate, but in doing so, it seemed to me, they cheapen the value of the expertise they’re trying to offer. If you can’t honestly assess a candidate and strategy in Minnesota, why bother holding a briefing?

          Knapp, who was only doing his job, wouldn’t touch it. He said that Minnesota as a traditionally Democratic state was a stereotype, and oh by the way, they’re confident they’ll win in Minnesota. But I framed the question that way deliberately because when the party apparatus sends someone to the Minnesota DFL hotel every morning for the daily pep talk, they’re told — as if they need to be — what a rich tradition as a Democratic state Minnesota holds.

          The briefing lasted a couple more questions. My colleague, Michael Khoo tried to get in a question about Ralph Nader but one of the handlers shouted “last question” just as he tried to ask it, and that was that.

          And there it is, the daily fight between reporters wanting answers, and politicians not only not wanting to give answers, but trying to give a soft answer to a question that a reporter would only ask in a politician’s very deep rem sleep.

          The key to a more informed electorate? Five words. “You didn’t answer my question.”

  • MrE85

    I think the more important question is “do we believe and trust the media?”

    I may dislike a news anchor’s delivery, or the new set the local teevee station built, or the latest news from Washington. I may critique a reporter from not including a fact I think is important, or covering subjects I think are trite and unimportant.

    That said, I rarely question the honesty of the newsies, nor do I believe they are pushing any personal or political agendas in their work. Sure, as long as humans make the news, there will be some degree of spin, but I know when I’m being played.

    At least I thought I did.

    I believe that most journalists are honest brokers of information, but in the days of cleverly crafted “fake news,” even the news pros can get fooled every so often. It seems to me that “fake news” works best on a audience that doesn’t trust “the media.” If so, then we are in trouble as a nation.

    I recommend that people find some news sources they feel good about — major dailies, local television or radio, public broadcasting, a major wire service — and stick with it. If you find the news upsets you (your favorite pol, Sen. Hogfart, is sinking in the polls) don’t blame the messenger is you don’t like the message. And please, don’t stop seeking out news.

    An ignorant and angry America is what the bad guys want, both at home and abroad.

  • Rob

    Pro tip: cut your cable TV cord. You’ll save a significant amount of money, and you won’t be missing any news/info/analysis that isn’t available via NPR/MPR, the local dailies, NYT, Washington Post, Guardian, Alternet, Vox, Politico, Reuters, BBC, Bloomberg, the Nation, Mother Jones or any other reality-based media sources.

    • The trouble with cutting the cable TV cord is the cable TV cord is also the Internet cord. I cut the cable TV cord, and saved about $5 a month. It was an insignificant savings. But… on the other hand… it forced me to find much, much higher quality programming that isn’t available on cable TV.

      • Rob

        Yes. And more specifically, I meant cutting off all the over-priced cable TV subscriptions. I use my interwebs cord for streaming a couple of low-cost subscription services including Netflix and Amazon, but all of my news/info/analysis intake is direct from the media hosts’ websites.
        I find no value-added on CNN or MSNBC broadcasts – let alone on the standard, “free” TV networks.

        • I’d give anything to get rid of CenturyLink, which I got to get rid of Comcast. Just awful, awful companies with horrible service. What do the people in Minneapolis pay for their WiFi? Anything?

          • Jerry

            $35 per month for USInternet 50 mbps fiber optic. Although service hasn’t been super reliable.

            I don’t know how much the city wide wi-fi costs, but I’ve heard that is kind of sketchy when it comes to signal, especially if your house is stucco.

          • Rob

            I have Comcast, but it’s high speed interweb/wireless only. No land line, no bundling. So far, no major service issues.

  • Hamliner

    Used to be a fairly bright line between “News” and “Commentary”. Newspapers seem to still show the difference clearly. Those whose mission includes TV news, not so much (i.e. their non-news programming blurs things). This blurring, and a failure to proudly demarcate the difference, gives the other content providers more leeway to fling non-news without identifying as such.

    NewsCut is a nice hybrid of commentary with links to the original News stories.

  • The survey doesn’t necessarily reflect the performance of the media, any more than it reflects the performance of the audience. It only reflects what the audience thinks.

    We know, for example, the Americans are stupendously disinterested in critical thinking. Too many do not ever ask the question “I wonder if that’s true” when consuming information. Then they repeat it . And it gets repeated and repeated and pretty soon it becomes considered fact. And when they’re news media doesn’t reflect that fact back at them, they say the media is biased for not doing so.

    • Mike

      That’s true to some extent, but large portions of the media aren’t interested in critical thinking either. For example, try to find any mainstream outlet that actually takes on the military-industrial complex, or our perceived need to have a U.S. military presence in every corner of the globe.

      Media malpractice from the Vietnam era forward is responsible for much of the cynicism among the public.

      Take the current Russia hysteria. It’s quite obvious that increased tensions between the two countries are good for business, risks be damned. The mainstream media dance to the tune of the generals and the high-ranking officials in DC, who themselves are part of the revolving door of government-to-industry-to-government gravy train.

      Stephen Cohen, NYU Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies, writes a column on these topics every couple of weeks for The Nation. He has a particularly good one this week:

    • Paul Drake

      Critical thinking takes time, and the news cycle moves too fast to do much of it. A story from 2 days ago may as well be from 2 years back. Look at this blog. Rarely do comment discussions extend longer than a day after the article is posted.

      Add up all the time that people are expected to spend on activities each day: 7 hours of sleep, 8 hours of work, 1 hour of exercise, 1+ hour to prep and eat healthy. Add in an hour of cleaning up yourself, the kitchen and laundry. Travel time between activities may be 1 or 2 hours depending on distance, transportation mode and weather. Plus grocery shopping and other errands.

      Taking care of kids adds its own pile of time with homework, sports, school activities, scouts and so on.

      By the time it’s all done I need a break from reality, so I may watch part of a movie or play a game on my iPad. Three years back I used to read the news a couple times a day. Now I may read more than the headlines once or twice per week.

      • That’s true. But on the other hand, the birther argument went on for 7, 8 years. And someone shot up a pizza joint because the Democrats might be running a sex trafficking operation there. There feels like a space there between thought and action that maybe they could have a desire to challenge what they’re told.

        The other side of the coin, of course, is that if they don’t want to believe something; they simply don’t. It’s all tidy ignorance.

      • thesheeplewillhavetheirsay

        Sure, most people are ignorant and apathetic.

        But it sure doesn’t help things to have the entire lamestream media being zealous propagandists.

        • Rob

          Did you mean that hatecasters like Hannity and Coulter are zealous propagandists, intent on keeping listeners ignorant and apathetic? If so, I’m with you, bro.

  • Kellpa07

    “Hate” probably takes it too far, but even the media ought to encourage healthy skepticism of its reports, particularly important reports without sources on the record. When I hear such reports, I assume that whoever acted as the source had her own reasons and own agenda for doing so. And when the media is taken in by such sources, they ought to come clean as to how that happened. Case in point was last year’s CNN report about an email that CNN’s reporter never saw, but reported on breathlessly. They never saw the emails, and their sources gave the wrong dates – something very difficult to explain unless the sources were outright lying. It’s probably most often incompetence rather than bias, but there is a lot of reporting by pretty much all news outlets that fails to adequately check stories that confirm the reporter’s bias. Too many reporters pass stories along and never bother to ask “I wonder if it’s true.” Again, case in point, the post right here on Newscut in which Bob asserted that the Google engineer was complaining that his First Amendment rights were violated. He made no such claim, there was no evidence at all that he made such a claim, but we had an entire post about the fact that such a claim was not colorable. Confirmation bias- the enemy of all good news organizations.

    • // the media ought to encourage healthy skepticism of its reports,

      Part of the problem is the audience thinks “media” is a singular noun.

      • ec99

        Same with data and alumni.

      • Kellpa07

        I do make that mistake from time to time.
        The audience can be grateful that journalists will serve as grammar police. At least some of the audience would rather journalists focus on their own accuracy.
        Sick burn, though. Definitely egg on my face.

      • Jerry

        “Media” is like “special interests”. It only describes something someone disagrees with.

      • Kellpa07

        Part of the problem is that some journalists think the grammar of internet commenters is important, and seem less concerned about whether what they write is true.
        But I did use “media” in the singular!

        • Jerry

          I think Bob is criticising those who treat “the media” as a monolithic entity instead of thousands of orginizations employing thousands of individuals, not how you pluralised a word of Greek origin.

          You’re both grinding your own axes here.

  • John

    1) That correlation looks pretty weak.

    2) I do see, with Canada and Sweden being notable exceptions, a correlation between the countries that have the highest distrust of “the media” appear to be the countries that i would associate with having the most independent media (I claim ignorance on pretty much all of South America), and those with the highest trust of the media being countries that I associate with high levels of media control by the government (most obvious to me, much of Africa and Russia). I don’t know how to do that sort of comparison though.

  • thesheeplewillhavetheirsay

    Today’s lamestream media is such a grotesque, corrupt lot……I would rather have one of my kids tell me that they are becoming a drug dealer or whore than hear them say that they are going to work for the Times, NBC, the Associated Press or NPR.

    • Rob

      You sound like a great and thoughtful parent.

      • thesheeplewillhavetheirsay

        I try to be…… that’s why I said what I said.

    • Hey now. Grow up or be gone.

    • Jerry

      And yet, here you are.

      • thesheeplewillhavetheirsay

        And here’s why: good luck,if you Google “Pew media survey” and look for any lamestream media articles on this important study—you will find almost none….as of last night, Minnesota Public Radio (to its credit) was the ONLY place (in other words, the lamestream media never wants to cover any story that interferes with its propaganda efforts). So I went to this article, just to see how MPR covered it (not surprisingly, the article has a leftist bias, but hey, at least they covered it).

        • // the article has a leftist bias

          Give an example.

          • thesheeplewillhavetheirsay

            Not mentioning the amazingly-large disparity between our two parties, when it comes to trust in the media (in other words, almost no Republicans trust the media). Only one other country had a lower trust score.
            US was one of only three countries where supporters of the ruling party (in our case Republicans) have less faith in the media than do supporters of the party out of power..

          • You’re actually citing reader bias.

          • thesheeplewillhavetheirsay

            lol….no. Those would be two salient facts for any one. And they leap out of the study.

          • I pointed out the disparity in the blockquote.

            Your reader bias prevented you from noting the highlights Pew found as their lead was recreated in the post.

            That’s classic reader bias