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Messenger/Harris Poll: Majorities From Both Parties Want More Objective Media

“Americans see many media sources today as advocates for political views and see great danger in first amendment freedoms,” said Harris Poll chairman Mark Penn.


American voters want a new media source that’s free from journalists’ personal biases, according to the inaugural Messenger/Harris poll.

  • Two in three voters in the poll, conducted by HarrisX, agreed that journalists mostly practice advocacy rather than unbiased journalism, including 77 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of Democrats.
  • Three in four voters agreed that the media “gives a biased picture of political events,” including 68 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Republicans, and 76 percent of Independents.
  • More than 80 percent of voters agreed that “we need a new news medium dedicated to even-handed treatment of issues without political bias.” 

“Americans see many media sources today as advocates for political views and see great danger in first amendment freedoms,” said Harris Poll chairman Mark Penn. “They are hungry for new sources of information.”

Local news rules, but voters are still interested in politics

Voters were most interested in local news (40 percent), followed by political news (31 percent) and entertainment news (10 percent). But respondents were also particularly skeptical of political journalism. Nearly three-quarters agreed that the “media today in general gives a biased picture of political events.” 

When asked about media coverage of the two major political parties, 37 percent of respondents said Democrats received fair coverage and 32 percent of respondents said Republicans received fair coverage. 

And the respondents who believed the coverage was biased were more likely to say it favored Democrats than favored Republicans. A full half of respondents said that media coverage of Democrats was biased in their favor, whereas only 27 percent said the same of Republicans.

A majority of Democrats (55 percent) said that they believed coverage of their party was fair, and only 19 percent of Democrats said that the media was biased against the party. Republicans took a far different view of coverage of their own party: 19 percent of Republican respondents said that coverage of the GOP was fair, and 69 percent said that coverage of the GOP was biased against the party. 

One in four voters, the plurality, said that Fox News was their primary source of television news, followed by CNN and ABC with 14 percent each. Democrats and Republicans were deeply split on the trustworthiness of Fox News: Thirty percent of Republicans said Fox News was “very trustworthy,” while the same share of Democrats – 30 percent – said Fox News was “very untrustworthy.” 

Forty five percent of Republicans named Fox News a principal source of TV news, whereas Democrats were more divided among multiple sources, top among them CNN (23 percent) and ABC (17 percent).

Voters’ views on 2024

That same feeling of bias in favor of the Democratic Party bears out with the frontrunners for the 2024 presidential nomination. Sixty-three percent of voters said that Biden is getting “easy” questions from the media, while 42 percent said the same of the media’s treatment of Trump. 

CNN has been under fire for hosting a town hall featuring Donald Trump, receiving criticism even from some of its own contributors for giving Trump a platform to echo disinformation. But the Messenger/Harris poll found that most Americans (62 percent) agreed that Trump should “be treated like any other politician,” rather than agreeing with the statement that “anything goes when it comes to criticizing Donald Trump.” Roughly the same share of voters – 61 percent – said he “should be allowed on news media” as well. 

Other highlights:

  • Most Americans (64 percent) said that Fox News “did the right thing” in firing Tucker Carlson, while 36 percent said it “was a mistake.”
  • Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) said that CNN did the right thing in firing Don Lemon.

The Messenger/Harris poll by HarrisX of 938 registered voters was conducted May 11-12, with a margin of error of 3.2 percent. Harris is owned by Stagwell, which is an investor in The Messenger.

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