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Study Shows Americans Distrust Campaign Coverage


A new study reveals some interesting, yet not surprising, results regarding American’s perceptions of media coverage of politics.

Editor and Publisher highlights the outcome of the survey conducted by Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership National Leadership Index. Harvard interviewed a little more than 1,200 adults nationwide in September. 

The highlights:

  • When asked if election coverage was politically biased, 40% believed it was too liberal, 21% too conservative, and 30% found it neutral. Nine percent weren’t sure.
  • 64% of those polled do not trust press coverage of the presidential campaign.
  • 88% believe that campaign coverage focuses on trivial issues.
  • 84% believe that media coverage has too much influence on American voting choices.
  • 92% say it is important that the news media provide information on candidate’s specific policy plans, but 61% say the media does not provide enough coverage of policy plans.
  • 89% say it is important to hear about candidates’ personal values and ethics, but 43% say there is not enough coverage of personal values and ethics.

A few thoughts from my perspective:

These are all good examples of what we could call “say one thing and do another” among American voters. Yes, there is tremendous voter apathy, caused by the most part by negative campaigning and “gotcha” journalism. But yet, those tactics work. Negative campaigning effectively surpresses voter turnout time and time again. If it didn’t, candidates wouldn’t spend billions of dollars each cycle on them. “Gotcha” journalism improves ratings and sells more papers.

Often, we answer survey questions through the lens of idealism. In a perfect world – we want things to look like this. And then we realize the world is far from perfect…and we act as we usually do.

I share this because, as communicators, we need to realize that the mainstream media continues to loose it’s effectiveness. We need to continuously look for new ways to get our message out and expand our mix.


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