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Harvard U. Study: Americans Don't Trust Media On Politics

This story was written by Marianna N. Tishchenko, Harvard Crimson

Most Americans do not trust media coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign, citing media bias and misguided focus as their primary concerns, according to a poll released by the Harvard Kennedy School last week.

The poll which was co-sponsored by the Merriman River Group found that 89 percent of U.S. citizens agree or strongly agree that the news media focuses too much on trivial issues, 77 percent agree or strongly agree that the news media is politically biased, and 82 percent agree or strongly agree that media coverage has too much influence on whom Americans vote for.

More specifically, 45 percent say the coverage is both too liberal and too conservative, 25 percent say that the media is too liberal, and five percent say that it is too conservative.

These findings suggest that the news media is at a crossroads in shaping their political coverage and winning viewers trust, Seth A. Rosenthal, the studys leader author and a fellow at the Kennedy School, said in a statement. At a time when Americans are demanding better leaders, their mistrust of the medias coverage of the presidential campaign is troubling.

The study also cited that 62 percent of the 997 American citizens surveyed said that they were skeptical of media campaign coverage, and that some percentage of those individuals believed that reporters oftentimes fail to separate their opinions from facts.

In fact, 42 percent said that negative media had influenced their vote against a candidate while only 28 percent said it had influenced their vote for a candidate through positive coverage.

Political pundits did not find the results of the poll surprising.

This doesnt strike me as unexpected, said Elaine Kamarck, a lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School. The media hasnt been trusted for some time.

The study concluded by examining which news sources Americans trusted most for election coverage. About 40 percent said cable television, while 18.9 percent pointed to over-air television news and 10.6 percent said print media.

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