Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Views of “Watchdog” Press Change with President

The belief that the press should keep political leaders from doing things that should not be done often depends on who those political leaders are, or more specifically, which party controls the White House. Currently, in the midst of the Obama administration, two-thirds of Republicans (65%) support the so-called “watchdog role” for the press, compared with 55% of Democrats. But last year, while Bush was still in office, only 44% of Republicans felt it was good that press criticism keeps political leaders honest, and Democrats were much more pro watchdog (71% supported press criticism). This partisan pattern has existed since the question was first asked by Pew Research in 1985. Throughout the Bush administration, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to support the press’s watchdog role. During the Clinton years, Republicans were the strongest proponents of press criticism, and during Reagan and Bush Sr., it was again the Democrats. Political independents express far less change in opinion. Two-thirds of independents currently favor the watchdog role for the press, little changed from 1985 or any time in between. Read More