Skip to main content

Dr. Frank Luntz

Pollster and Political Analyst

Share
Commentary

‘I feel that the media is 100% biased’: Americans debate trust in news

Share

Dr. Frank Luntz

Pollster and Political Analyst

Share

A well-informed public, sustained by a free and independent press, has long been considered one of the most vital pillars of a healthy democracy in the modern world. And yet today, in the United States, this pillar is in danger of collapsing, as fewer and fewer Americans express positive trust in “the media” as a whole.

In this 30-minute episode of America Speaks, political analyst and pollster Dr. Frank Luntz asks Americans how they think news media companies performed in recent coverage of key topics, including the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden. Their replies reveal Americans’ lack of trust in the news media industry, and more profoundly, the underlying distrust and suspicion they have of each other.

Nothing provokes more passionate debate than the trust or lack of for the news media. If you’re a Democrat, you think Fox News is full of lies. If you’re a Republican, you think MSNBC is the paid mouthpiece for the Democrats. And if you’re independent, you don’t trust any of them. It doesn’t matter if you read your news, if you listen to your news, or if you watch the news, Americans are disappointed and dissatisfied. And it’s only getting worse. I’m Dr. Frank Luntz, your host for America speaks right here on straight arrow news, buckle up for what you’re about to hear is going to upset even the most passionate news junkie. So the first thing I want to do is, give me an entire sentence, but just want to describe how you view the media and its role in America today, at least. So I’m going to start with you.

Um, I feel that the media is 100% biased, completely on one side.

Lisa from Wisconsin.

I don’t fully trust the media, I think that no matter what outlet like you have, there are biases depending

away from Massachusetts.

I can’t argue with any of that. I even go to international sources, because I feel they’ll be even less biased on some of the domestic things and the ones here,

not coming from New York.

I think there are definitely some new sources that are trying to present both sides fairly in an unbiased way. But of course, there are those that are just totally partisan.

from Tennessee.

I think it’s mixed. There’s good sources and bad sources. But I think that the profit motive motivation of the media as a whole leads to bad things.

Unfortunately, the vast part of the last 20 years, and has been leaning towards a bias in the media to include the vast number of publications, and unfortunately, even Fox News,

racy, how do you respond? Um,

I think that with the advent, in the last maybe 2030 years of the on both ends of the spectrum of opinion coming in, and sometimes people get confused, and think that you know, somebody like Tucker Carlson is a journalist, he’s not same thing on MSNBC, there’s people who are opinion people. And I think that the public does get confused. The lines have been sort of blurred between what is opinion and what is news. And so when people hear some they just don’t think they don’t know what to think. They don’t know how to delineate between news and opinion,

Jelani Why does virtually everyone on this zoom, believe that journalism now is biased?

Well, I think fundamentally just news this change I kind of view myself as a amateur political historian and if you look at our newscasters back in the day, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw, whoever you name, you really never knew their you didn’t even know what their story was, you didn’t know where they came from, what their background is, but every everybody now wants to be a political celebrity or some type of, you know, talking head where you know what they think. And so I think because news back in the day was just here’s what it is, well, you know, give real bring in people to have commentary rather than, you know, people giving commentary themselves. I think that’s why there’s so much mistrust

out there. And how do we fix this?

I think it’s the viewers I think people need to protest and lobby their their favorite stations to present more unbiased reporting.

Damn, how do we fix this?

What was mentioned was Journalism School, a lot of the people the big Talking Heads these days, didn’t go to journalism school, they got attention through some other way or worked in some prior federal administration. And that just got on the news of that way. And they don’t have a lot of times they’re talking about something they don’t have any real knowledge or deep knowledge about.

Um, do you have any solutions?

Um, I mean, it’s tough because I feel like the it’s all about the profit and viewership motivation. If people aren’t watching, they’re not making that ad money, but you have to be like, very exciting, and those people make it exciting. So it’s the profit motivation. All this

I’m gonna go against the grain and say it can’t be solved. A lot of people said journalism school journalists are not in charge of news media. corporate sponsorship. Is and they have to push a certain agenda in order to bring in profits. So no, I don’t believe it can actually be fixed.

Thank people. Like I said, I think people want to feel good. They want to be reassured, and I think people are craving that, then just reassurance that they are, you know that they are on the right side with one way or the other. And I think it maybe starts with us, you know, I think I’m not sure what Washington Post or Fox or CNN, I don’t know what your with any, I’m not sure what any of them could do to, you know, get people to come back and trust them again,

in a functioning democracy, few things matter more than an effective trusted media. But according to our nationwide panel, neither our democracy or our media is functioning. And the number one criticism of the media bias. Let’s listen in, what are the consequences to American democracy? If we don’t restore a greater degree of faith, trust and confidence in the media? Anybody?

There’s no accountability for any of the politicians or people who are making decisions. And so if we don’t have an honest, truthful media, trying to determine if they’re telling the truth, or if they’re being corrupt, then we’re lost.

consequences

that wait, I want to be clear, though, that that says a watchdog, and we have three branches of government to exist as a watchdog, and they are not watching each other. So the media is this core piece that we are missing from that, from that conversation. The fact that we can’t trust it now is is a failure of our democracy.

So Tracy, what are the consequences if we don’t restore credibility to the medium?

Well, I think we’re kind of already seeing it right now. Because, you know, the whole concept of, of truth, and of facts has been completely twisted, and turned on its head. I mean, there’s very little I think that even this group, we’re all very well spoken, that we could even agree on as truth. And that makes me really sad. Because truth is an objective thing. And I don’t think people recognize that anymore.

We’re already seeing it. The last four years at the ballot box on election day. People are voting based on what a lot of us myself included think is misinformation, Fox News, fed a narrative for over a year to Trump’s what the people who became Trump’s base, and you know, we see what’s happening, what’s happened from there.

Oh, me? Um, yeah, I disagree with Catherine as far as that goes, because I think Fox did a pretty good job of telling people what was going on, when everybody else was saying the other thing, my friends are telling say, this is pretty good. Pretty good thing. What’s the difference between a conspiracy theorist and a normal person? And the answer is six months? You know, we found that very critically,

explain that.

Okay. The media blocks, a lot of the information that you want to hear for over six months or so. And you find out that the conspiracy theorists were really, we’re really right. Like, for instance, about Hunter Biden’s laptop, if anybody had known about that before the the 26th part of May 2020. Election, it’s possible that we would have had a different precedent.

Lisa from Wisconsin, what are the consequences if the media is unable to restore its credibility?

I think continue disinformation for the general public. A lot of the people here have talked about alternate media sources. Your general public is not going to take time out of their day or their schedule, to look at other media sources. So whatever their go to is, is going to be where they are, whether it’s correct or not.

The misinformation and the multiple messages coming at us every day will affect voter turnout. Joy talked about Hunter Biden’s laptop, who cares? What about January 6, what about out how that was portrayed in the media. Some people were celebrating that day and some people almost lost their lives. So it can be very dangerous and have very dangerous consequences.

One person did lose their life if you recall. And she was on on on unarmed.

Oh. All right. Go ahead.

Her name was Ashley about she was shot in the in the Capitol building.

She was trying to climb into a restricted area. And she was warned. She She was not supposed to be doing that. The legislators were right there on the other side. Is that okay? For people to do?

It may not be okay, but it’s still not right to shoot them dead. I’m sorry.

You sound like somebody who was very okay with what happened. That was illegal. And that’s treason in other countries.

We still know what happened with her that day. There’s no report. There’s nothing there’s no information coming out. We kind of know.

hundreds of hours of footage.

It was on video.

We know exactly what happened on that day.

It’s all on video.

But there’s no there’s no real explanation as to what happened, why she was shot. There

are countless reports, hundreds of hours of footage. We know whether there’s an impeachment there were investigations by multiple organizations, news and federal. And, you know, you know, statewide governments as well, you know, we know what happened on that day at this point in time. There’s no way you could say that we’re still in the dark.

There’s no nothing going on

underneath the surface. It was plain as day. What happened? We all watched it live. We saw what happened after.

It’s a miracle that only one person was killed. I mean, think about what they were doing. Think about how many of them were trespassing and committing acts for which some are going to prison now for 20 years. And one box. Still, that shows incredible restraint on behalf of everyone trying to protect the Capitol

Square that they had that amount of amount of restraint for people attacking one of our federal buildings, but not on the street. So

I’m gonna bring this back to the media. Has the media done its job in reporting January 6, yes or no? No. So who says they have Raise your hands? Yes. Who says they haven’t? Raise your hands? Please, can we have that conversation for a few minutes? Did the media this job on January 6, go ahead.

I think respectfully to everyone that’s here. Everyone has an opinion. But as you can see, even in this focus group, depending on which side you belong to, if you will, you get you choose to hear the unfortunate camp information is from both sides, whether it’s from the conservative side, or from the liberal standpoint, they’ll feed you what they want you to hear. And unfortunately, we don’t have time to dissect it like it should. And those of us like myself and others here, take a little more time. But still, it’s quite difficult. So in hearing everyone’s comments, here’s I can You can tell who’s for what side. And that’s my point. There’s a narrative that’s set by both sides, in that in the news media, to your point rankings is completely at fault and hurting our our nation, and bringing people like each other here against each other for misinformation that they produce, because they can manipulate that news so we can hear what they want to hear. And that’s hurting the soul of our nation.

Tracy from New Mexico, you’re nodding against that.

Yeah, I just do not understand what you were looking at on that day or on the days after. And this is exactly to to reach your conclusions. And this is exactly what I’m talking about when I’m talking about objective truth. And people just refusing to see it.

They just have I’m Georgia. Is there an objective truth about January 6?

I think there’s still some pieces missing from the puzzle. I mean, I don’t understand why the Capitol Police wasn’t there. I know they were asked to be there but were refused to be called

the media do its job on January 6. Now. Lisa,

I think there’s still some some questions, but I think there’s some questions about a lot of things that you know, are supposedly big deal to some people and not to others. I think the 100 bucks I don’t think it’s a huge deal. And I think it did affect the election.

Lisa from Wisconsin, did the press do its job on January 6, and the days to follow?

I don’t think so I think they could have done a lot better. I think they could have covered more of both sides. The people who attacked the building violated the law. And there were people injured on both sides that were Capitol Police that were injured as well. So I think we’re all getting parts of the story. And depending on how deep you dig, or who, you know, in each city where something happens, depends on your how you view it.

The longer we talked, the more agitated and frustrated our panel became, the list of complaints grew. But no one had any solutions. How should the media covered Donald Trump? This is something that the former president of CNN wants to figure out. This is something that everyone is asking, how does the media accurately and fairly covered Donald Trump? These are from Georgia? We’ll start with you.

Oh, gosh, um, I would love to say that I think they that they would be able to honestly do it. But I think there’s too much bias. There’s too much hate for him. Even within his own party, so I just think that I don’t even know if there’s an answer. But as the solution to that,

so I’m gonna push you CNN attempted to do a town hall where they could statistically and accurately report the things that Trump said that simply weren’t true. Is that the responsibility of the news media to hold them accountable for things that he says that are inaccurate? Lisa?

It’s it’s, that is the that is the responsibility of the media, in my opinion, is to hold people accountable. Everybody, not just Donald Trump.

And do they do a good job with Trump on that issue?

Um, no. But I also I also think that

he is savvy and maybe

isn’t letting them do that.

Beverly, how should the media cover Trump?

No, objective and honest, to be honest, if you’re stating the facts, you’re stating the facts. I don’t care what side of the divide you’re on. If it’s the fact that the facts let’s not do compare and contrast with Hunter Biden. Sometimes we use that as a tactic in order to make someone else look a little less guilty. Let’s just state facts. Andrew,

what’s the best way to cover cover Donald Trump? Honestly, I feel like they’ve done a pretty decent job. I mean, if we’re talking about media as a whole, we know what he says, you know, we see His word every day. We know the things he’s done, we at this point, it’s up to us to take that information and accept it for what it is and internalize it and understand what that means for the country and for you know, our daily lives. Because now, how could anybody out there not know what he said, you know, on shortly in Charlottesville, or, you know, right before January, certain direction, you know, it’s pretty clear.

Tracy, how should the media covered Donald Trump? Oh,

so Yeah, good question. Um, I think the way that I’ve seen it covered today with Kristen Welker on beat the press, she met him face to face, he ran over her, you know, she had some good questions. She tried to fight back he he said a whole bunch of stuff that we know wasn’t true. Then what NBC News did after that was they had a story that fact checked every single thing that he said

mean, that’s part of the problem. That’s the Meet the Press today was like a prime example of what not to do. As an interviewer. She was combative. She’s aggressive. She was eager to fact check them. When you sit down with him. He’s gonna He’s got a scripted answer. Yeah, he’s a filler Bastion. You have to turn the question back on him make him answer questions. If though let us know she did. She’s very combative. Very, very aggressive. Very rude. Awful, not the Tim Ross or type of approach. And then she was so eager after going into commercial break, she wanted to fact check out oh, this is that’s a responsibility. It’s

um, John from Iowa. If she was a man, would you be saying that same thing you’re just not was very sexist. And I don’t appreciate it ever racist to very much so his bias is clearly showing.

Never vote down at all. Jake Tapper is another one thing Jake Tapper is just like that to the gal that did the town hall on CNN was the same way combat of what the back backtrack and right on the spot instead of asking questions to get answers from their job is to ask questions and get answers.

But it is absolutely an interviewers job to fact check as they’re asking the questions. You’ve you asked follow up questions based on the answers they gave to the previous questions. You have to call them out on their books.

And I apologize I didn’t mean to I should not have called you racist without knowing what you said after that, which was I think you have a problem with with journalists, not what

we have in society today in politics, if you don’t like with one person saying that the fastest way to calm a racist homophobe. Stand by that he

was sexist in that comment. But I apologize. I absolutely apologize to you.

It was wrong. And that’s what’s awful about our politics today. That type of thing. If you don’t like what somebody is saying he is a racist, sexist, bigoted homophobe, whatever, just

like how you said she was combative and aggressive. Very, very telling of you as well. So it goes both ways, doesn’t it?

No, she was.

So that’s our job.

Not not not to be rude. And in your face. It’s not it’s not the TIM RUSSERT way.

Does the press treat Donald Trump fairly? Raise your hands? If you think they do? Know? And raise your hands? If you think they don’t?

They do not treat Donald Trump fairly at all. Why? Why they’re the media is an attack dog against Donald Trump personally, not just politically, but personally.

I think the question you had prior to this, how do you cover Donald Trump? I guess it’s based on the premise if you had a good and honest media, to echo this gentleman’s point, for political purposes, they despise the man whether you like him or not, because he brings a change that nobody wants on, in truth be told, I’ve been a registered Democrat, and I’ve been a Democrat my entire life, and just voted this last time for Trump only because my party went nuts. And I don’t recognize my party. And I am what you would call people like your conservative folks here, a left wing Democrat, that’s me. And I changed because of how they were covering this man. I was like, this cannot be right. Because I wanted covered fairly for both sides, not just him. And they despise him. And so you could never actually properly cover him to answer your original question.

Does the press treat Donald Trump fairly?

I don’t. And I think I agree with what Louis said. I was, I mean, since 2008, when I was a kid of major progressive kid, and most recently became more conservative. But I think, again, Donald Trump has has been covered immensely. There’s not enough there, there couldn’t be more coverage of Donald Trump. And so I think the thing is, we as citizens have to educate ourselves. And so that’s the thing I don’t think we can look to the media Well, their opinion, opinionated or not to be our parents, we have to be able to decipher information and make decisions and choices for ourselves. I believe we actually

I agree with Jelani, we have to do the research ourselves. Regarding the question Is he treated fairly? I’m sure you guys love how he’s portrayed on Fox News. But if you were going to talk to somebody on the left, they would say otherwise, and vice versa with CNN. I prefer BBC and AlJazeera is nonpartisan, unbiased sources of information. At the end of the day, everybody needs to do their research.

That’s really strong treated fairly by the press.

I think so certainly by the some of the more unbiased news sources like NPR, PBS news hour. You know, CNN and MSNBC definitely let in their personal bias from time to time. But I think there are plenty of journalists who are just just reporting what he does, and that’s fair to me,

Sam, Donald Trump fairly

for the most part, yes, but I also think that they go off on tangents about like, small things he does, instead of focusing on the fact that he’s like a direct, like danger. to our democracy, like if he gets elected again, he could legitimately destroy the democracy of this country. Like there may not be elections after another if he gets elected again. But it’s God’s honest truth.

Yeah, well, that’s silliness.

Does the press treat Joe Biden fairly? Jelani, I’m going with you first.

I would say no. And I was actually a huge admirer of Joe Biden for a long time going back to the Obama days before he was elected, I thought of him as, you know, middle class Joe, as we used to know of him as an as a person. I’m saying, that’s what I did believe that that one time as a person that, you know, had to endure it, but she has extreme hardships and different things in life. But even CNN was late to the show to you know, to acknowledge this about a day or so ago, they’ve just been a string of stories where he’s mischaracterized or just straight up lied about, you know, what he has done or his experiences have in order to relate to other people. And so I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t care about, because it’s not, you know, well publicized. But I think if we’re talking about the integrity of our president, whether the Donald Trump or Joe Biden, you have to you have to look at these things objectively and say, okay, yeah, Joe Biden. Yeah, he may have done great things in the past or has endured, you know, great hardship. But there’s a lot of mischaracterizations, that the media is just not covered. And I think a lot of my former Democrat friends don’t don’t acknowledge that.

That really your reaction.

I disagree with him, I think, is for the most part, he’s been categorized pretty fairly. They’ve been digging up stuff on his family since day one. It’s not been a cakewalk for either Joe Biden or Donald Trump. Again, it goes back to the other points, do the research for yourself. At the end of the day, make that decision for yourself. It shouldn’t be CNN telling you how to vote. It shouldn’t be Fox News telling you how to vote.

Louis G. You think the press treats our current president fairly?

I believe that they cover for him. And the same level as the vile towards the former president.

Lisa, from Wisconsin, your evaluation of how the Tres pres treats Joe Biden?

I think they cover him fairly fairly. I think they do focus on things that aren’t important. When they do that. I also think they’re responsible for treating all politicians and fact checking them. That’s right.

I think the middle and the left wing media are covering him fairly. I mean, I just saw the New York Times the top of their app a few hours ago was stating that polls are showing that Democrats don’t want him to run Democrats don’t want him to run. And the Democratic Party is concerned. You know, right. Right there. That’s not what left wing people want to hear. But that’s what the New York Times was saying the right wing media is just ridiculous. It’s it’s total silly season. Endless Hunter Biden. That’s that’s his son. You know, that’s his son. Let’s talk about anyway. So, yes, I think the left is being fair to Biden left in the middle.

If you were to pick your favorite news source, and give them advice for how to cover 2024 specifically, what would you tell them in a sentence or two? And Sam, I’m going to start with you.

I would say to accurately like to accurately quantify like, the stakes, the health high the stakes are for the election. It could like the it’s a old mantra that this is the most important election, you know, of your lifetime or whatever, for every election. But in this case, I think it’s legitimately true.

Beverly, why would you tell them

and PR and I would tell them keep up the good work, keep eliminating the fluff and focusing on fax.

Pick the one source, what would you tell them and how to cover 2024?

Well, I read The Washington Post, every Sunday paper all the Sunday papers I get delivered to my house. My advice to them is get local. Send reporters to all the you know as many local you know, election boards and find out what’s going on locally because that is so sorely needed. We’re talking all about national politics. You need local news.

Your reaction anybody?

My reaction is I have been a cord cutter for almost a decade. I don’t watch the news daily anymore for hours at a time. I don’t know the names of the journalists on TV anymore. Think that way I help a lot of people just turn off the TV for a bit, maybe read a paper every other day or so or something else because the TV is takes up a lot of brain space.

To be clear, Americans now get their news to affirm themselves, rather than inform themselves. The problem, as I see it, is that we no longer seek or accept news that runs counter to our own worldview. And what does that do to American democracy? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. So on behalf of America speaks on straight arrow news. I’m Dr. Franklin’s we’ll see you again soon.

More from Dr. Frank Luntz

Latest Commentary

We know it is important to hear from a diverse range of observers on the complex topics we face and believe our commentary partners will help you reach your own conclusions.

The commentaries published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.


Latest Opinions

In addition to the facts, we believe it’s vital to hear perspectives from all sides of the political spectrum. We hope these different voices will help you reach your own conclusions.

The opinions published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.

Weekly Voices

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Tuesday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Wednesday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Thursday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Friday

Left Opinion Right Opinion