Washington, Nov 1: The press is struggling with flagging public opinion this election season, according to a survey released on Friday, Oct 31 by Harvard University's Center for Public Leadership. Almost two-thirds of the respondents don't trust press coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign; 89 percent said journalists focus too much on 'trivial issues'; and 77 per cent think that the press is politically biased.
Twelve percent rejected the media altogether, saying they "either don't trust or don't use any media source for campaign coverage."
One-quarter said the election coverage skews liberal, while five percent said it leans conservative and 45 percent said it does both - careening from too liberal to too conservative, The Washington Times reported.
The public also appears weary of aggressive reporting on the campaign trail - 82 percent said the press has "too much influence on who Americans vote for."
To a significant extent, negative coverage sways political opinion, with 42 percent saying journalists could turn them against White House hopefuls through negative coverage, and 28 percent saying positive coverage could influence their vote for the candidates.
The candidates notice the media's influence, often to decry it.
"If the media convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations, then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media," Alaska Governor Sarah Palin told WMAL radio on Friday, Oct 31.
The researchers were concerned also that public cynicism could damage the electoral process itself.
Cable news earned the most trust for information about the campaign: Just under 40 percent said they trusted cable most, 19 percent trusted broadcast news, while 11 percent trust print sources most.
Two news sources in particular earned accolades. Twenty percent named CNN's coverage as their most trusted source; 14 per cent named the Fox News Channel.