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Robert Morris poll finds many believe an agenda shapes news coverage

| Wednesday, May 28, 2014, 11:42 p.m.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans think the news media approach stories with a political agenda and try to shape public policies and laws accordingly, a poll finds.

About 27.6 percent of the respondents attributed the perceived bias to the personal politics that journalists bring to the profession, according to the survey by the Robert Morris University Polling Institute, which Trib Total Media sponsors.

Other reasons cited for the perceived bias included a drive for higher ratings (20 percent), an attempt to please advertisers and other business interests (14.8 percent), and a grab for viewers or readers who want news from “like-minded” media (14 percent), the poll found.

Although 45.5 percent of respondents said their favorite news source offers objective reporting, 16.8 percent said they turn to a news source because they think it sees the issues as they do. About 18 percent of Americans named Fox News as their top news source, though 47.8 percent of those polled think the network is biased.

“The connection between a perceived liberal bias and the corresponding support for Fox News is not surprising,” said Anthony Moretti, associate professor of communication at Robert Morris.

“That network has ingrained in us the idea that it is ‘fair and balanced,' even though this poll shows people see Fox News as also biased,” Moretti said.

About 45.7 percent of poll respondents think news outlets are biased in favor of liberals and against conservatives, while 12.7 percent think they slant in favor of conservatives and against liberals.

Among types of news media, 34.6 percent of respondents said they considered television news as their most trusted source, followed by daily newspapers, print or online (22.8 percent); weekly news magazines, print or online (10.2 percent); social media (7.6 percent); blogs (7.4 percent); and entertainers or celebrities (3.1 percent).

“The preference for television news has been around for almost a generation now. This poll suggests that preference is not going away, despite our almost intimate connection to our smartphones, tablets and other personal devices,” Moretti said.

The nationwide poll surveyed 1,004 people proportional to state populations. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Tom Fontaine is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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