On PBS, Krauthammer Calls Attention to Low Confidence in News Media

Charles Krauthammer brilliantly and effortlessly raised an issue on last Friday’s Inside Washington that is near and dear to our hearts here at NewsBusters. It came during a discussion of the immigration reform effort now underway in both houses of Congress. Panelists Evan Thomas and Nina Totenberg agreed that if immigration reform fails to pass, given that many in both parties support it, it would be a sad commentary on Congress.

This prompted moderator Gordon Peterson to confront Krauthammer with some new Gallup poll data about Americans’ confidence in certain institutions, including Congress: “Congress ranks last out of 16 [institutions]. A 10 percent approval rating – 10 percent! The lowest level of confidence Gallup has ever polled. The lowest for any institution on record.”


Krauthammer responded with a simple question: “And what's the confidence in journalists?” Peterson, who is a journalist himself, could only chuckle, “Uh, I didn’t mention that.” Off-camera, Thomas and fellow panelist Mark Shields could be heard muttering that confidence in journalists was around 25 percent. To which Krauthammer quipped, “Saddam Hussein is somewhere in between, I’ll bet.”

The Gallup poll in question actually measures confidence in television news and newspapers separately. In this year’s poll, released on June 13, Americans’ confidence in those two institutions happened to be the same: 23 percent. That means they were tied for 11th place among the 16 institutions asked about in the poll.

Some of the liberal media’s favorite targets garnered higher confidence levels than TV news and newspapers: the military (76 percent), the church and organized religion (48 percent), the supposedly failing medical system (35 percent), the supposedly racist criminal justice system (28 percent), and even banks (26 percent).

For years, we at NewsBusters have been showing you that the news media skews heavily leftward, and another poll finding seems to underscore this point. Gallup found that liberals are much more fond of the press than conservatives are: 31 percent of liberals expressed either “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers versus only 15 percent of conservatives. Likewise, 26 percent of liberals expressed confidence in TV news, versus only 18 percent of conservatives.

This is not surprising when coupled with another poll finding that we reported on back in 2008. That Pew Research Center poll found that 24 percent of journalists described themselves as liberal, while only six percent considered themselves conservative. To put that into perspective, 19 percent of the general public considered themselves liberal at the time, while 36 percent of the public considered themselves conservative. So liberals are over-represented in journalism while conservatives are under-represented.

Many Americans are aware of the media’s end game. In a Rasmussen poll that we reported on last summer, just 26 percent of Americans said they trusted the information journalists gave them about the presidential race. Fifty-nine percent believed the media had favored President Obama over Mitt Romney, while 18 percent inexplicably believed journalists had favored Romney over Obama.

Confidence in Congress may be at an all-time low, but Americans’ confidence in the news media is also very low, especially among conservatives. It appears that much of the public is heeding the Media Research Center’s message: Don’t believe the liberal media!

Below is a transcript of the exchange:

EVAN THOMAS: This is a real test of functional government. If they can’t get this done, when you really have a lot of Republican momentum as well as Democratic, when you have labor and the chamber of commerce, when you have all these forces in alignment and they can't get it done. That's a time when Americans ought to be really worried about Congress.

NINA TOTENBERG: Well, it is one of these situations of the tail wagging the dog. The smallest part of the base – in the Republican party it's probably, I don’t know, a third of the base or 40 percent of the base – is now wagging the whole dog. And if we can't get this done, as Evan says, when everybody seems to want to do it, it doesn't speak well for us.



GORDON PETERSON: Charles, new Gallup ranking of American confidence in our institutions. Congress ranks last out of 16. A 10 percent approval rating – 10 percent! The lowest level of confidence Gallup has ever polled. The lowest for any institution on record. American confidence in the military: 76 percent.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: And what's the confidence in journalists?

PETERSON: Uh, I didn’t mention that. (Chuckling)

EVAN THOMAS: 25 percent.

MARK SHIELDS: Is it 25?

THOMAS: Something like that.

KRAUTHAMMER: Saddam Hussein is somewhere in between, I’ll bet.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.