Survey Finds Huge Gap Between Press and Public on Many Issues

The general public is less interested in news and holds a lower opinion of the press than professional journalists. These are among the shocking findings of a new survey.

New Survey Finds Huge Gap Between Press and Public on Many Issues (Editor & Publisher)

A survey to be released Monday reveals a wide gap on many media issues between a group of journalists and the general public. In one finding, 43% of the public says the press has too much freedom, while only 3% of journalists agree. And just 14% of the public can name “freedom of the press” as a guarantee in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in the major poll conducted by the University of Connecticut Department of Public Policy.

The public is not very educated on media matters and finds the press annoying. Journalists, not so much.

Six in ten among the public feel the media show bias in reporting the news, and 22% say the government should be allowed to censor the press. More than 7 in 10 journalists believe the media does a good or excellent job on accuracy — but only 4 in 10 among the public feel that way. And a solid 53% of the public thinks stories with unnamed sources should not be published at all.

The public is right and journalists are deluding themselves. But the survey results would likely be similar if other professions were the subject of the survey.

Perhaps the widest gap of all: 8 in 10 journalists said they read blogs, while less than 1 in 10 others do so. Still, a majority of the news pros do not believe bloggers deserve to be called journalists.

The first just means journalists are news junkies whereas most people aren’t. The second is mostly professional bias but perhaps also reflects the fact that the vast preponderance of blogs are not very good.

Asked who they voted for in the past election, the journalists reported picking Kerry over Bush by 68% to 25%. In this sample of 300 journalists, from both newspapers and TV, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 3 to 1 — but about half claim to be Independent. As in previous polls, a majority (53%) called their political orientation “moderate,” versus 28% liberal and 10% conservative.

Hardly surprising, since survey after survey shows that the press votes Democrat far, far more than the general population. But, of course, they’re not biased.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ira says:

    Hi, James…
    the following lengthy excerpt is from an article by Helen Thomas, well known as the (Howard) Dean of the Washington Press Corps. The whole piece of self-serving drivel can be found at
    but the excerpt is worth considering.

    One does wonder where the lines are these days that distinguish between legitimate reporters and anyone who has a laptop computer or a Web site.

    Where do the bloggers fit in? They may have something to say — and nobody is stopping them. Still, the description “journalist” does not apply to what they do.

    Edward Wasserman, a professor of journalism at Washington & Lee University, defines a journalist as someone who “is professionally dedicated to truth seeking.” He conceded that although the whole job description “has gotten muddied,” Gannon shouldn’t be considered a journalist.

    Gannon was a propagandist, a flack for the White House. Thus, he fails to meet the requirement — as Wasserman wrote in the Miami Herald last September — that “anybody who enters the (journalism) profession makes a core commitment to do his or her best to determine and tell the truth.”

    Tom Rosenstiel, head of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said the proper question is not whether you call yourself a journalist, but whether your work constitutes journalism.

    “A journalist tries to get the facts right” and tries to get close to a “verifiable truth,” not to take sides but “to inspire public discussion,” he said.

    This isn’t a requirement for bloggers with axes to grind.

    Professional reporters and editors are trained to understand the need for neutrality in straight news stories. They also have been trained in the ethics that distinguish their profession.

    It’s in the nature of our work that the public has every opportunity to scrutinize what we do. No one lasts long in the news business if there are deliberate distortions of the news.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Ira: You and/or Rosenstiehl confuse a “journalist” with a “reporter,” a distinction I’ve had some trouble with myself.

    One can be a journalist and still take a side. Is Thomas Friedman a journalist? I’d say he is. How about P.J. O’Rourke or Christopher Hitchens? In both cases, you betcha. Yet none of those people are primarily reporters.

    If those guys are journalists, then so are many, many bloggers.

    The requirement that one can only be a journalist if one makes his living doing it–or that doing it for a living automatically annoints one a journalist, for that matter–is absurd on its face.

    Aren’t bloggers essentially freelance journalists? Those who build an audience can even sell advertising and make money doing it. A blessed few make enough to do nothing but write for a living.

  3. Ira says:

    Not me – it was Helen Thomas who referred to ‘legitimate reporters’ (paragraph one of the
    excerpt) and ‘journalists’ (second paragraph) as if the words were/are synonyms. My point was that this old cluck sounds as if she believes that only those who think and write the way she does qualify as journalists, and there are apparently many others who agree with her.

  4. bryan says:

    Sadly, I don’t think this survey is going to do anything, other than bring another round of pronouncements from journalists that they need to “redouble their efforts” to “tell the story” of the need for journalism that “comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.”

    It’s in the DNA of the journalism profession.