The Hill Poll: Most voters see media as biased and unethical

Likely voters hold a dismal view of the news media, generally regarding reporters as biased, unethical and too close to the politicians they purport to cover, according to a new poll for The Hill.

A full 68 percent of voters consider the news media biased, the poll found. Most, 46 percent, believe the media generally favor Democrats, while 22 percent said they believe Republicans are favored, with 28 percent saying the media is reasonably balanced.

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The share of voters who believe the media are too friendly with politicians is almost twice as large as those who find their coverage of politicians appropriate. Forty-four percent of voters assert the former; only 24 percent believe the latter.

The picture is not much brighter on the general question of ethics. Fifty-seven percent of voters think of the news media as either somewhat or very unethical, while only 39 percent see them as somewhat or very ethical.

The findings come as the phone-hacking scandal centered upon the now-shuttered British tabloid News of the World continues to make headlines on this side of the Atlantic. The tabloid was owned by the UK arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., and senior U.S. politicians, including Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), have called for an investigation into the company’s activities here.

While negative views of the media are common among all sectors of the electorate, some intriguing patterns emerge deeper in the poll’s findings.

Self-described centrists and liberals, for example, tend to hold a less unremittingly harsh view than conservatives.

The proportion of moderates who believe the news media generally report on politicians in an appropriate way is, at 33 percent, almost twice as large as the 17 percent of conservatives who take the same view.

At the same time, however, centrists tend to think the news media favor one side in their reporting. Thirty-nine percent of centrists endorse the idea that the media favor Democrats while 19 percent think they favor Republicans.

There is some evidence of a gender divide in terms of the media’s overall stance toward politicians. Men are significantly more likely than women to see the news media as too friendly with politicians. Fifty percent of men think the media are too friendly; 38 percent of women take the same view. Twenty-two percent of women think the news media are too hostile toward politicians — a view that is shared by only 12 percent of men.

The Hill Poll was conducted on July 21 by Pulse Opinion Research. It is based on the responses of 1,000 likely voters and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.