Poll: Most Americans believe traditional media outlets dispense ‘fake news’

A news stand display copies of the Daily News, Tuesday Sept. 5, 2017, in New York.

A news stand display copies of the Daily News, Tuesday Sept. 5, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

A Monmouth University poll finds that three-quarters of the American public believe that the mainstream media reports fake news.

Just 25 percent of those surveyed believe the term “fake news” applies only to stories where the facts are wrong, said Patrick Murray, director of the polling institute in New Jersey.

“One of the problems is ‘fake news’ can be all sorts of things to people,” he said Monday. “A majority of folks said that fake news was the editorial decisions that the mainstream media made in terms of the kinds of stories they wanted to tell.”

About two-thirds of Americans surveyed said they believe that outside agents trying to plant fabricated stories in the media are a serious problem.

That’s troubling, Murray said.

“The whole cornerstone of a healthy democracy is public confidence in an independent fourth estate that reports the news,” he said. “And, right now, it looks like that public confidence is on life support.”

The poll also found the public feels social media platforms are partly to blame for spreading fake news and aren’t doing enough to stop it.

Even with all the concern about fake news, Murray said, the survey shows major news outlets are more trusted as an information source than the tweets from President Donald Trump. But Republicans are more likely to trust Trump.

“He’s got a significant size of the population, maybe a quarter or so, who believes everything that he says — even if it contradicts what’s coming, not only from independent news sources but even right-leading news sources if he says something different.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.