Americans Believe Mainstream Media Report 'Fake News,' Consider It Serious Problem

Traditional mainstream media -- including TV news outlets and major newspapers -- are losing the credibility war, as one out of three Americans believe they report “fake news.” That’s the top line finding of a survey conducted by Monmouth University in early March.

The poll found that 77% of Americans believe major news outlets report fake news -- up 13 percentage points from when MU asked Americans the same question last year.

Nearly a third (31%) believe mainstream news media report fake news “regularly,” while 46% say they do it “occasionally.” Only 21% said major news media do not report fake news.

“When it comes to the meaning of ‘fake news,’ a majority believe that it involves editorial decisions as well as inaccurate reporting,” the report notes, including 58% who believe the media publishes fake news “on purpose to push an agenda.”

The study also found that most people believe social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube are partly to blame for the spread of fake news and they don’t believe they are doing enough to stop it.

In fact, the vast majority of Americans consider “outside groups or agents” planting fake news in both mainstream media and social media to be a “serious problem.”

Despite the overwhelming perception among Americans that major news outlets report fake news, more Americans trust the major cable news networks (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC) than believe President Donald J. Trump.

Download the full report, including tables and complete methodology, here.

8 comments about "Americans Believe Mainstream Media Report 'Fake News,' Consider It Serious Problem".
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  1. David Reich from Reich Communications, Inc., April 4, 2018 at 2:13 p.m.

    How very sad that so many don't trust major news media.  Trump should be thrown out for intentionally undermining one of the pillars of our democracy, regardless of what happens with the Mueller probe.

  2. Paul Street from Numeris, April 4, 2018 at 4:10 p.m.

    The reporting here has been great and the inclusion of the press release and data tables is much appreciated. Trend data is well served in a stable study.

    My concern with the questionnaire centres around "mainstream media" after asking questions about the partisan cable-news services. The use of "some" could have true believers of broadcast station X report their perception of fake news because heretic cable -station Y.

    My ultimate question would be, "does your favourite news provider deliver you 'fake news' stories?"  

  3. Marcelo Salup from Iffective LLC, April 4, 2018 at 4:37 p.m.

    Bottom line 3/4 of Americans believe that the media is full of shit? Wow. The media are, indeed, in deep shit.

  4. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, April 4, 2018 at 4:39 p.m.

    @Paul Street: That's a great question and suggestion. Alas, this was an academic study that has been repeated annually so I think Monmouth is locked into that approach. But I still think there's value in the self-reported assessment of "mainstream media." And the survey does ask respondents about specific news outlets too (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC) as well as social media. 

    But I'm sure if they asked about specific news media outlets -- like MediaPost and Research Intelligencer -- the "fake news" reporting responses would go way down.

  5. Kevin Killion from Stone House Systems, Inc., April 4, 2018 at 6:38 p.m.

    I wish the survey hadn’t used a loaded term like “fake news”. I suspect many included their perception of biased news in their responses, and not just explicitly “fake” items.

  6. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 4, 2018 at 7:36 p.m.

    We should bear in mind that the average person uses media primarily for non-news content, so the fact that many are suspicious of the validity of news coverage does not mean that the media, as a whole, are in trouble but only their "news" operations.  For example, a typical adult devotes only 15% of his/her TV viewing time to what is termed "news" and this includes the cable political comentary shows as well as "straight news". In addition, unless respondents are asked to evaluate "news" as supplied by different types of "news" sources---local station newscasts, nightly network news, cable opinion shows, PBS newscasts, social media "news", etc, you will get very impresionistic and imperfect replies. Pew has done a number of these studies in this manner and respondents clearly answer differently when thinking about specific news outlets.

    I also agree with Kevin that asking about "fake news" poses a loaded question which raises the hackles of Trump fans who might have replied more positively to a less politicized question.

  7. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, April 5, 2018 at 1:27 a.m.

    Kudos to Monmouth University for the additional tabulations and notes on methods. Additional insights resident in that data.

  8. Ken Kueker from Billboard Connection replied, April 5, 2018 at 1:54 p.m.

    David Reich...thsi is a problem that long pre-dated Trump. Fox was putting a conservative spin on news long before Trump entered the race and the same with CNN & MSNBC putting a liberal spin on their reporting for just as long.  All three networks have gone through cycles where they get more extremism on each side, then start to be at least a little more evenhanded, then go back to extreme again.

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