A Knight/Gallup study on media bias found that readers tend to trust news content when they are not shown the source more than when they do know the source.
The research shows people are at greater risk of bias if they choose to consume media from more extreme news sources, according to The New York Times, which reported on the study last month.
Those who are distrustful of the news media and those with more extreme political views tend to be the most heavily biased readers.
Knight Foundation and Gallup partnered last year to pull news content from seven media outlets and ask over 3,000 former Gallup survey participants to rate the trustworthiness of 1,645 articles from those outlets.
Half the participants were not allowed to see the source of the news, and the other half were. The group that could not see the sources of the news were significantly more trusting of the news content.
The study found that “channels with source attribution had a lower overall mean trustworthiness rating per article.”
“This finding may suggest that source attribution lowers content trustworthiness by reminding users of personal preferences and biases toward particular sources.”
Thirty-five percent of the study participants who could see the news source exhibited strong media bias.
Those with the strongest distrust of the news media had the most heavily biased ratings, while those who said they don’t trust the news media at all provided biased ratings 47% of the time.
Those who reported trusting the news media “a fair amount” provided ratings with strong bias just 30% of the time.
Partisanship also drove trustworthiness ratings when the news source was shown.
People who identify with the Republican Party who read articles from The New York Times and Vox (usually labeled as left-leaning) without knowing it rated those articles as more trustworthy than the group who knew what the sources were.
And those who identify with the Democratic Party, who read Fox News articles (usually labeled as right-leaning) without knowing it, rated it higher when they did not know the source.
Those who regularly read Rush Limbaugh, Breitbart and Fox News, in general, generated the most biased ratings of news content.
Rush Limbaugh listeners demonstrated large rating bias in 52% of news content rated; for Breitbart readers, it was 50%.
In the study, Fox News watchers showed strong bias 45% of the time.
The two news sources with the least biased consumers were The Wall Street Journal (26%) and PBS (14%).