Lots of Sizzle, Not Enough Steak in U.S. News Media

    New York , N.Y. – October 21, 2014 – One might expect that today’s 24-hour news cycle should have room for everything. When the news never stops coming, it stands to reason that there’s sufficient bandwidth to leave no topical stone unturned… in theory. But of course, that doesn’t mean that every sort of story gets the same level of coverage. When provided with several types of news stories and asked which are under-, over-, or appropriately covered, three-fourths of U.S. adults (76%) say celebrity gossip/scandal stories are over-covered, while half (49%) say the same about general entertainment news and 44% believe sports news gets too much coverage. And perhaps the midterms are to blame, but a third of Americans (33%) feel U.S. elections are over-covered in U.S. news media.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll¨ of 2,537 U.S. adults surveyed online between August 13 and 18, 2014.

    Looking at the other end of the coverage spectrum, nearly half of Americans feel humanitarian issues in the U.S. (47%) and education (also 47%) are under-covered. Over four in ten also identify science (45%), government corruption/political scandals (44%), and corporate corruption/white collar crime (42%), while a third say the same of global/international humanitarian issues (33%) and three in ten feel health (30%) stories are under-represented.

    Generational and gender differences

    Matures are more likely than their younger counterparts (and Millennials are less likely than any of their elders) to call out news related to celebrity gossip/scandals as over covered (88% Matures, 79% Baby Boomers, 76% Gen Xers, 68% Millennials).

    Matures are also more likely than other generations to see sports as over-covered (56% Matures, 46% Baby Boomers, 42% Gen Xers, 38% Millennials), along with being the cohort most likely to see government corruption/political scandals (59%, 46%, 41% and 37%) and corporate corruption/white collar crime (50%, 41%, 39% and 41%) as under-covered.

    Millennials, meanwhile, are less likely than older generations to view general U.S. politics as over-covered (20% Millennials, 30% Gen Xers, 27% Baby Boomers, 35% Matures), but more likely than their elders to see an array of international issues as under-covered:

    • Global/International humanitarian issues (40% Millennials, 32% Gen Xers, 28% Baby Boomers, 27% Matures);
    • International elections (34%, 23%, 20% and 18%); and
    • General international politics (31%, 23%, 20% and 20%).

    Looking across gender lines, men are more likely to see science news as under-covered (49% Men vs. 40% women), while women are more likely to identify sports as over-covered (49% women vs. 38% men).

    Political perspectives

    Independents and Democrats are both more likely than Republicans to identify several topics as under-covered, including humanitarian issues in the U.S. (53% Ind, 49% Dem, 39% Rep), education (52%, 50% and 38%), science (53%, 45% and 36%), corporate corruption/white collar crime (47%, 46% and 32%), health (34%, 32% and 22%), and general international politics (27%, 26% and 19%).

    As to what’s over-covered, Independents are more likely than members of either party to feel general U.S. politics get more than their fair share of attention (31% Ind, 24% Dem, 25% Rep). Republicans, meanwhile, are more likely than either Democrats or Independents to see humanitarian issues on both a global/international level (19% Rep, 12% Dem, 14% Ind) and in the U.S. (11%, 5% and 6%) as over-covered.

    The blame game

    So, who is seen as the top offender in over-covering certain types of news? And where are you most likely to find some topics under-represented? According to Americans, it’s on TV. Network TV news and cable TV news (38% each) are seen as the top offenders when it comes to over-covering some stories. Network TV news is also the news mode singled out the most as under-reporting some stories (34%), followed by cable (25%) and local (24%) TV news.

    Trust is high, but there’s room to improve

    Under- and over-covered stories aside, it’s important to note that majorities of Americans trust news media outlets across a broad range of mediums. Local TV news (78%), local newspapers (76%), and radio (73%) are the modes most likely to be trusted, but even the bottom of the range – online-only news sites (61%) – are trusted by the majority of U.S. adults.

    That’s not to say there’s nothing they would change. Nine in ten Americans say news in the U.S. should involve more reporting and fewer talking heads (89%).

    In other news

    As to the importance of an impartial press, over eight in ten (84%) feel it’s essential that journalists be completely unbiased.

    Looking at where Americans get their news, 82% prefer to seek out news in multiple places, while 36% get most of their news all in one place.

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    TABLE 1a

    TRUST IN TYPES OF MEDIA

    Summary Grid

    Now, we’d like to ask you a question about how much trust you have in certain institutions. How much trust do you have that each of the following will get you the news fairly and accurately?

    Base: U.S. Adults

    TRUST (NET)

    A lot of trust

    Some trust

    DO NOT TRUST (NET)

    Not very much trust

    No trust at all

    Not sure

    Local TV news

    %

    78

    25

    53

    17

    12

    6

    4

    Local newspapers

    %

    76

    21

    55

    19

    13

    6

    5

    Radio

    %

    73

    16

    57

    20

    14

    6

    7

    Online news sites tied to existing/ traditional news outlets (e.g., cnn.com, foxnews.com, nytimes.com)

    %

    67

    17

    50

    26

    18

    9

    7

    Cable TV news

    %

    66

    15

    51

    28

    18

    9

    6

    National newspapers

    %

    66

    17

    50

    27

    19

    8

    6

    Network TV news

    %

    65

    17

    48

    30

    19

    11

    5

    Online-only news sites (e.g., Huffington Post, Yahoo! News)

    %

    61

    11

    50

    32

    21

    11

    7

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 1b

    TRUST MEDIA TYPES

    Summary of A Lot of Trust + Some Trust (NET) by Generation & Political Party

    Now, we’d like to ask you a question about how much trust you have in certain institutions. How much trust do you have that each of the following will get you the news fairly and accurately?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    2012 Total

    2014 Total

    Generation

    Political Party

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Rep

    Dem

    Ind

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Local TV news

    73

    78

    71

    79

    84

    82

    80

    85

    75

    Local newspapers

    69

    76

    71

    75

    81

    78

    76

    83

    72

    Radio

    69

    73

    67

    72

    80

    70

    71

    79

    70

    Online news sites tied to existing/ traditional news outlets (e.g., cnn.com, foxnews.com, nytimes.com)

    N/A

    67

    64

    67

    71

    65

    70

    71

    64

    Cable TV news

    64

    66

    60

    68

    71

    71

    68

    73

    60

    National newspapers

    60

    66

    65

    66

    70

    60

    62

    77

    61

    Network TV news

    61

    65

    57

    66

    72

    65

    60

    79

    56

    Online-only news sites (e.g., Huffington Post, Yahoo! News)

    N/A

    61

    63

    65

    63

    45

    53

    70

    60

    N/A indicates this option was not offered in 2012

     

    TABLE 1c

    DON’T TRUST MEDIA TYPES

    Summary of Not Very Much Trust + No Trust At All (NET) by Generation & Political Party

    Now, we’d like to ask you a question about how much trust you have in certain institutions. How much trust do you have that each of the following will get you the news fairly and accurately?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    2012 Total

    2014 Total

    Generation

    Political Party

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Rep

    Dem

    Ind

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Online-only news sites (e.g., Huffington Post, Yahoo! News)

    N/A

    32

    30

    28

    31

    45

    41

    25

    33

    Network TV news

    35

    30

    35

    28

    26

    32

    36

    17

    38

    Cable TV news

    30

    28

    32

    25

    26

    24

    27

    22

    34

    National newspapers

    34

    27

    27

    26

    25

    34

    32

    18

    33

    Online news sites tied to existing/ traditional news outlets (e.g., cnn.com, foxnews.com, nytimes.com)

    N/A

    26

    30

    25

    23

    28

    25

    24

    30

    Radio

    25

    20

    25

    20

    15

    22

    22

    16

    22

    Local newspapers

    27

    19

    21

    19

    16

    20

    20

    14

    22

    Local TV news

    23

    17

    22

    16

    14

    16

    17

    12

    20

    N/A indicates this option was not offered in 2012


    TABLE 2a

    TYPES OF NEWS STORIES UNDER/OVER COVERED IN U.S. NEWS MEDIA

    Summary Grid

    And thinking generally about different types of news stories, which do you believe are over- or under-covered in U.S. news media today?

    Base: U.S. Adults

    UNDER-COVERED

    (don’t get as much attention as they should)

    About the Right Amount of Coverage

    OVER-COVERED

    (get more attention than they should)

    Humanitarian issues in the U.S.

    %

    47

    46

    7

    Education

    %

    47

    48

    5

    Science

    %

    45

    51

    5

    Government corruption/Political scandals

    %

    44

    38

    18

    Corporate corruption/White collar crime

    %

    42

    47

    11

    Global/International humanitarian issues

    %

    33

    52

    15

    Health

    %

    30

    62

    8

    International elections

    %

    25

    58

    17

    General international politics

    %

    24

    60

    16

    Money/Personal finance

    %

    20

    71

    9

    Business/Economy

    %

    18

    71

    11

    General U.S. politics

    %

    17

    57

    26

    General crime

    %

    16

    62

    22

    U.S. elections

    %

    10

    57

    33

    General entertainment news (e.g., industry news, TV/movie reviews)

    %

    5

    46

    49

    Sports

    %

    5

    51

    44

    Celebrity gossip/scandals

    %

    3

    21

    76

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 2b

    TYPES OF NEWS STORIES UNDER COVERED IN U.S. NEWS MEDIA

    by Generation, Gender & Political Party

    And thinking generally about different types of news stories, which do you believe are over- or under-covered in U.S. news media today?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Political Party

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Male

    Female

    Rep

    Dem

    Ind

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Humanitarian issues in the U.S.

    47

    48

    49

    47

    39

    46

    48

    39

    49

    53

    Education

    47

    52

    46

    44

    42

    45

    48

    38

    50

    52

    Science

    45

    48

    43

    44

    41

    49

    40

    36

    45

    53

    Government corruption/Political scandals

    44

    37

    41

    46

    59

    47

    41

    44

    39

    50

    Corporate corruption/White collar crime

    42

    41

    39

    41

    50

    45

    39

    32

    46

    47

    Global/International humanitarian issues

    33

    40

    32

    28

    27

    31

    34

    28

    34

    36

    Health

    30

    34

    25

    31

    26

    30

    31

    22

    32

    34

    International elections

    25

    34

    23

    20

    18

    28

    22

    22

    28

    26

    General international politics

    24

    31

    23

    20

    20

    26

    22

    19

    26

    27

    Money/Personal finance

    20

    23

    20

    19

    17

    21

    19

    17

    19

    25

    Business/Economy

    18

    20

    17

    18

    18

    20

    17

    17

    16

    22

    General U.S. politics

    17

    19

    14

    15

    19

    16

    17

    18

    16

    16

    General crime

    16

    18

    15

    15

    13

    17

    15

    14

    13

    20

    U.S. elections

    10

    14

    8

    8

    10

    10

    10

    11

    10

    10

    General entertainment news (e.g., industry news, TV/movie reviews)

    5

    10

    3

    3

    2

    7

    4

    3

    7

    5

    Sports

    5

    10

    2

    3

    3

    7

    3

    3

    5

    7

    Celebrity gossip/scandals

    3

    5

    2

    2

    2

    3

    3

    2

    4

    3

     

    TABLE 2c

    TYPES OF NEWS STORIES OVER COVERED IN U.S. NEWS MEDIA

    by Generation, Gender & Political Party

    And thinking generally about different types of news stories, which do you believe are over- or under-covered in U.S. news media today?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Political Party

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Male

    Female

    Rep

    Dem

    Ind

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Celebrity gossip/scandals

    76

    68

    76

    79

    88

    75

    76

    77

    72

    80

    General entertainment news (e.g., industry news, TV/movie reviews)

    49

    44

    54

    48

    55

    50

    48

    50

    45

    54

    Sports

    44

    38

    42

    46

    56

    38

    49

    44

    42

    45

    U.S. elections

    33

    28

    34

    36

    40

    35

    32

    33

    30

    37

    General U.S. politics

    26

    20

    30

    27

    35

    28

    25

    25

    24

    31

    General crime

    22

    26

    21

    18

    25

    24

    21

    25

    20

    24

    Government corruption/Political scandals

    18

    20

    19

    16

    16

    17

    19

    19

    18

    16

    International elections

    17

    12

    19

    20

    19

    15

    19

    19

    14

    18

    General international politics

    16

    13

    19

    18

    15

    17

    15

    17

    13

    17

    Global/International humanitarian issues

    15

    11

    17

    16

    18

    16

    14

    19

    12

    14

    Business/Economy

    11

    12

    10

    11

    9

    12

    10

    9

    12

    10

    Corporate corruption/White collar crime

    11

    13

    11

    10

    9

    11

    11

    13

    10

    9

    Money/Personal finance

    9

    11

    8

    7

    10

    9

    8

    8

    10

    8

    Health

    8

    10

    7

    7

    5

    8

    8

    8

    7

    8

    Humanitarian issues in the U.S.

    7

    6

    7

    8

    9

    9

    6

    11

    5

    6

    Education

    5

    5

    3

    6

    6

    6

    5

    7

    3

    6

    Science

    5

    5

    5

    4

    5

    5

    5

    4

    5

    4

     

    TABLE 3

    NEWS OUTLETS MOST LIKELY TO OVER-COVER STORIES

    by Generation & Political Party

    Thinking about any types of news you believe are over-covered, which of these sources do you think are most likely to over-cover those news stories? You may select up to two.

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    2014 Total

    Generation

    Political Party

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Rep

    Dem

    Ind

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Network TV news

    38

    37

    35

    40

    43

    44

    34

    40

    Cable TV news

    38

    31

    45

    41

    37

    35

    40

    41

    Online news sites tied to existing/ traditional news outlets (e.g., cnn.com, foxnews.com, nytimes.com)

    19

    20

    18

    19

    19

    18

    20

    21

    Online-only news sites (e.g., Huffington Post, Yahoo! News)

    18

    19

    18

    17

    16

    23

    17

    16

    Local TV news

    17

    12

    18

    20

    21

    19

    18

    15

    National newspapers

    13

    11

    13

    12

    21

    15

    13

    12

    Local newspapers

    6

    5

    6

    6

    8

    5

    7

    6

    Radio

    6

    9

    5

    4

    4

    4

    7

    6

    Other

    2

    3

    2

    1

    2

    1

    2

    2

    NA – I don’t think any kinds of news are over-covered

    15

    19

    12

    14

    10

    11

    13

    15

    Multiple Responses Allowed


    TABLE 4

    NEWS OUTLETS MOST LIKELY TO UNDER-COVER STORIES

    by Generation & Political Party

    Thinking about any types of news you believe are under-covered, which of these sources do you think are most likely to under-cover those news stories? You may select up to two.

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    2014 Total

    Generation

    Political Party

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Rep

    Dem

    Ind

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Network TV news

    34

    28

    36

    38

    39

    37

    30

    37

    Cable TV news

    25

    27

    29

    22

    20

    24

    27

    26

    Local TV news

    24

    22

    24

    27

    24

    21

    30

    22

    Local newspapers

    17

    16

    11

    20

    24

    18

    19

    17

    National newspapers

    16

    11

    17

    16

    24

    20

    12

    16

    Radio

    12

    13

    9

    13

    15

    10

    13

    13

    Online news sites tied to existing/ traditional news outlets (e.g., cnn.com, foxnews.com, nytimes.com)

    11

    13

    10

    9

    11

    7

    12

    13

    Online-only news sites (e.g., Huffington Post, Yahoo! News)

    9

    10

    10

    9

    8

    14

    8

    9

    Other

    2

    3

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    NA – I don’t think any kinds of news are over-covered

    17

    20

    19

    16

    11

    17

    16

    15

    Multiple Responses Allowed


    TABLE 5a

    NEWS STATEMENTS

    Summary Grid

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. Adults

    AGREE (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    DISAGREE (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    News in the U.S. should involve more reporting and fewer talking heads.

    %

    89

    46

    42

    11

    8

    3

    It’s essential that journalists be completely unbiased.

    %

    84

    47

    37

    16

    13

    3

    I prefer to seek out news in multiple places.

    %

    82

    35

    46

    18

    13

    5

    It’s alright for journalists to have a point of view in their reporting as long as they don’t try to hide it.

    %

    61

    15

    46

    39

    25

    14

    I get most of my news all in one place.

    %

    36

    9

    28

    64

    39

    25

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 5b

    NEWS STATEMENTS

    Agree (NET) Summary by Generation & Political Party

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    2014 Total

    Generation

    Political Party

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Rep

    Dem

    Ind

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    News in the U.S. should involve more reporting and fewer talking heads.

    89

    82

    90

    93

    91

    90

    88

    88

    It’s essential that journalists be completely unbiased.

    84

    75

    87

    88

    90

    82

    84

    88

    I prefer to seek out news in multiple places.

    82

    80

    82

    84

    80

    77

    85

    84

    It’s alright for journalists to have a point of view in their reporting as long as they don’t try to hide it.

    61

    60

    57

    63

    68

    62

    64

    58

    I get most of my news all in one place.

    36

    38

    41

    33

    33

    40

    37

    31

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between August 13 and 18, 2014 among 2,537 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

    Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

    The Harris Poll¨ #95, October 21, 2014

    By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll

    About The Harris Poll¨

    Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. For more information, or to see other recent polls, visit the Harris Poll News Room.