January 18, 2019

Nearly three-quarters of Republicans say the news media don’t understand people like them

A majority of Americans believe the news media do not understand people like them, and this feeling is especially common among Republicans, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

Almost three-quarters of Republicans feel misunderstood by the news media

Overall, 58% of U.S. adults feel the news media do not understand people like them, while 40% feel they are understood, as reported in a recent Pew Research Center study.

Republicans, however, are nearly three times as likely to feel that news organizations don’t understand them (73%) as they are to say they feel understood (25%). By comparison, most Democrats (58%) say they feel understood by the news media, while four-in-ten say they do not.

Republicans largely feel misunderstood by the news media regardless of their interest in the newsNot only are Republicans far more likely to feel misunderstood by the news media, they feel this way regardless of their media habits and demographic characteristics, according to the analysis of data collected Feb. 22 to March 4, 2018, among 5,035 U.S. adults.

About three-quarters of Republicans who are very interested in the news (74%) say news organizations do not understand people like them – about the same share as among those who are somewhat interested (70%) and not interested in the news (78%).

Among Democrats, however, news interest plays a large role in whether they feel misunderstood. About a quarter of Democrats who are very interested in the news feel misunderstood (27%), compared with about four-in-ten of the somewhat interested (39%) and roughly half of those not interested (52%). Still, Democrats at all levels of news interest are much less likely than Republicans to feel misunderstood by the news media. (For more on the measure of news interest, see this report.)

Republicans differ little across various demographic groups in saying people like them are misunderstood by the media. For example, Republicans have high levels of feeling misunderstood across sex, age and education groups (between 70% and 76% in each group say they feel misunderstood).

Republicans generally feel misunderstood by the news media regardless of demographic traitsAmong Democrats, however, there are differences across demographic traits, especially when it comes to education and age. About three-in-ten Democrats with at least a college degree (29%) feel misunderstood by the news media, compared with 42% of those with some college education and 47% of those with a high school diploma or less. Democrats ages 50 and older are also less likely to feel misunderstood than those under age 50 (35% vs. 44%).

Overall, independents fall somewhere between Republicans and Democrats in feeling misunderstood by the news media (63% say this), though whether they lean to the Republican or Democratic Party has a strong influence. Independents who lean to the Republican Party are far more likely to feel misunderstood than those who lean Democratic (80% vs. 51%, respectively, say they feel misunderstood by the news media).

The deep divides between Republicans and Democrats in feeling misunderstood by news organizations is largely in line with partisan divides in trust in national media and perceived fairness in news coverage. As seen in previous findings, Republicans are far less likely than Democrats to say they have a lot of trust in the information they get from national news organizations and are more likely to think the news media tend to favor one side.

Note: For more information, see the methodology.

Topics: News Audience Trends and Attitudes, U.S. Political Parties, News Interest

  1. Photo of Jeffrey Gottfried

    is a senior researcher focusing on journalism research at Pew Research Center.

  2. is a senior writer/editor focusing on journalism research at Pew Research Center.