The national dialogue about Fake News and mainstream media bias is now a key part of the American political process. Not an hour goes by that Twitter isn’t rife with click-bait headlines misconstruing cherry-picked data, and armies of digital dissidents calling them out with the Fake News hashtag. The group of Americans who disapprove of the mainstream media is highly diverse. A recent YouGov survey asking respondents to rank a series of President Trump’s Tweets calling out Fake News raised his favorability among Hispanics above his baseline favorability by over 20%.
Market Research Foundation’s research indicates young Whites, particularly from New England, and First Generation Americans, particularly from Europe, Africa, and East Asia, hold highly critical views of the mainstream media as well. We asked respondents to indicate their level of approval or disapproval for mainstream media sources such as CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News in a series of surveys last year, and cross-referenced responses with demographic information.
Young, White, New Englanders Hold the Highest Disapproval Rates of the Mainstream Media
Among Generation Z -– young people between ages thirteen and twenty-three – the average disapproval rate for the mainstream media is 34%, but that varies widely by demographic. Young Whites disapprove at the highest rate of any racial group, with 40% saying they disapprove of mainstream media, versus 23% of young Blacks and 24% of young Hispanics. In fact, younger Hispanics have one of the highest approval rates for the mainstream media -– 60% of Generation Z Hispanics say they approve of the mainstream media. This finding indicates that a Fake News claim is less likely to resonate with young Hispanics than either young Whites or Blacks, or older Hispanics. For reference, 45% of Hispanics overall approve of the mainstream media.
New England Generation Zers are by far the most critical of the mainstream media, with 45% saying they disapprove of mainstream media news sources. Generation Zers from the Middle Atlantic and Pacific regions hold the lowest disapproval rate of the mainstream media at 32%. Below is a chart showing Generation Z’s disapproval of the mainstream media by region.
As we noted previously, young people with a low desire to attend college share skepticism of the Democratic Party and the mainstream media. Forty-eight percent of young people with a low-desire to go to college disapprove of mainstream media, versus 32% of the high-desire group. There appears to be a strong link between determinedly independent views and a mistrust of the mainstream media.
Immigrants from Europe, East Asia, and Africa Hold the Highest Disapproval Rates of the Mainstream Media
Among First Generation Americans, the average disapproval rate for the mainstream media sits at 32%, but age and country of origin are key factors in views on the media. Senior immigrants – those aged 65 and over – hold the highest disapproval rate of the mainstream media at 39%. Those 55-64 disapprove at a rate of 31%, those 45-54 disapprove at a rate of 32%, those 35-44 disapprove at a rate of 30%, and those 18-34 disapprove at a rate of 32%.
First Generation Americans from Europe – excluding Eastern Europe – East Asia, and Africa, hold the highest disapproval rates of the mainstream media. Forty-two percent of immigrants from Europe disapprove of the mainstream media, followed by 38% of both East Asians and Africans. South Central Asians, South Americans, and Central Americans/Caribbeans hold lower than average disapproval rates. While Hispanic is a term that may include immigrants from both Central and South America, it valuable to note that the share of self-identified Hispanics who disapprove of the mainstream media sits at 27%. Below is the share of disapproval by birth place.
The Partisan Gap is Much Lower in Generation Z Than First Generation Americans
Among both Generation Z and First Generation Americans, Republicans and Independents disapprove of the mainstream media at higher rates than Democrats, but the partisan gap is much lower among thirteen to twenty-three-year-olds. Among First Generation Americans, 50% of self-identified Republicans and 38% of self-identified Independents disapprove of the mainstream media, but just 16% of self-identified Democrats disapprove. Among Generation Z, 47% of self-identified Republicans and 41% of self-identified Independents disapprove of the mainstream media, but so do over a quarter of self-identified Democrats – 27%. Among the subset of Generation Zers who are also First Generation Americans, 28% disapprove of the mainstream media.
These findings indicate that while Americans with conventionally conservative or independent views are more likely to be skeptical of the mainstream media, demographic factors play an important role as well. Young New Englanders, Senior immigrants, and immigrants from Europe, Africa, and East Asia stand out as particularly critical of mainstream media.