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'Impossible for Democracy to Function': Study Reveals Growing Mistrust of American Media

The findings from the Knight Foundation and Gallup suggest lack of trust in news media has far-reaching effects. 

Americans are increasingly mistrustful, confused with U.S. news media. (Photo: Jovo Marjanovic/EyeEm via Getty Images)

A report released this week indicates the majority of Americans believe the media plays a critical role in democracy—and think United States news outlets are failing to deliver accurate coverage.

"That's a bad thing for democracy," John Sands, director of learning and impact at the Knight Foundation, which conducted the study in conjunction with Gallup, told the Associated Press. "Our concern is that when half of Americans have some sort of doubt about the veracity of the news they consume, it's going to be impossible for our democracy to function."

According to the report,

Less than half of Americans, 44%, say they can think of a news source that reports the news objectively. Republicans who can name an accurate source overwhelmingly mention Fox News, while Democrats' responses are more varied.

The Knight Foundation, referencing data from pre-Covid-19 pandemic polling, reports that a majority of U.S. adults consider "fake news" to be a threat to democracy. Four in 10 Republicans surveyed consider accurate news coverage that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be "fake news."

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Americans on the whole, however, remain skeptical of information coming from the White House. A report released in June by the Pew Research Center shows citizens overwhelmingly trust news about Covid-19 from the CDC rather than the Trump administration. Trump's public disdain for CDC guidelines around Covid-19 and his active attempts to discredit top scientists, including the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have been the subject of much debate in recent months as the United States continues to lead the world in Covid-19 infections and deaths.

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Social media has continued to gain ground as being a news source, with the Knight Foundation reporting an equal number of survey participants rely on newspapers as rely on social media for information.

However, a July 30 report by the Pew Research Foundation shows that people who rely on social media for news are "less likely to get the facts right about the coronavirus and politics and more likely to hear some unproven claims." 

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