Television

News reporting in the US is perceived as biased

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MUMBAI: Over six in 10 adults in the United States agree that there is a bias in the reporting of news. However, there is less agreement as to whether there is a liberal or conservative bias. Furthermore, viewers of talk shows say that the hosts of these shows are equally critical of Republicans and Democrats. Greater numbers of adults say they turn to CNN and Fox News mostly when seeking news or information about public affairs or politics.

These are the results of a Harris Poll of 1,179 US adults surveyed online by Harris Interactive between 7 to 13 June 2006. Specific results from this poll include:

* Almost four in 10 US adults (37 per cent) listen to talk shows on the radio at least once a week and about three in 10 (29 per cent) watch political or public affairs TV shows at least once a week.

* CNN (20 per cent) and Fox News (18 per cent) are the television channels adults most often turn to when they want news or information related to politics or public affairs. These are followed by the networks, including ABC (nine per cent), NBC (eight per cent) and CBS ( seven per cent). Other channels include MSNBC (five per cent), C-Span (three per cent), PBS (three per cent) and CNBC (one per cent).

* When comparing those who are 'heavy' users of the media (including talk radio and television) to 'light' users, a slightly different profile emerges. Among "heavy" media users, Fox News is the leading channel at 39 per cent, followed by CNN at 22 per cent. Among 'light' media users, CNN is at the top (21 per cent) followed by ABC (13 per cent), NBC (11 per cent), CBS (nine per cent) and Fox News (eight per cent).

* When looking at the profile of viewers of TV channels that are watched most often for news about politics or public affairs, preferences emerge based on political affiliation and political philosophy. CNN's viewers are more likely to be Democrats (42 per cent) or Independents (29 per cent) than Republicans (19 per cent.) Not surprisingly Fox News viewers are more likely to be Republicans (63 per cent) as compared to Democrats (12 per cent) or Independents (20 per cent).

The potential biases associated with the media's reporting have been discussed a great deal. This Harris Poll explores whether the public thinks that talk show hosts are more critical of Democrats or Republicans. Among those who watch talk shows at least once a month, 22 percent think that talk show hosts are more critical of Democrats and 25 percent say that hosts are more critical of Republicans. The remaining 52 percent say that the hosts are equally critical of both parties.

However, over six in 10 (63 per cent) of Republicans agree that there is bias in the news reporting, with the remaining 36 per cent saying they are not sure (31 per cent) or think there is no bias (fiv per cent). Interestingly, the adult public overall thinks that there is more of a liberal bias (38 per cent) than a conservative bias (25 per cent). While this may not be altogether surprising, the fact that the findings don't show an even greater liberal bias is noteworthy.

* Furthermore, among those who are 'heavy' users of the media, a majority (54 per cent) say that there is a liberal bias in news reporting, compared to 24 per cent who say there is a conservative bias. Among "light" media users there is less of a difference, with similar numbers saying that there is
a liberal bias (31 per cent) or conservative bias (25 per cent).

* CNN viewers are split on this issue, with a third (33 per cent) saying that there is a liberal bias and another third (32 per cent) saying there is a conservative bias.

* Fox News viewers, however, strongly feel that there is a liberal bias (69 per cent) as compared to 12 per cent who say there is a conservative bias. Among adults who say that there is bias in the media, television is perceived as having the 'greatest bias in the reporting of news' (41 per cent).

17 per cent say that print media and seven percent say that radio is biased in their reporting. Three in 10 (31 per cent) say that the media overall are equally biased.

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