In light of Thursday’s post lamenting journalists’ toxic hostility toward people of faith, it is no surprise to see a new survey released by Pew Research on Friday showing a large majority of Americans saying the media doesn’t understand them.
“Overall, 58 percent of U.S. adults said they do not feel understood by the media, while just 40 percent say they are understood,” reported The Hill. “Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to feel that they are misunderstood by the media, with 73 percent of GOP respondents saying news organizations don’t understand them. Fifty-eight percent of Democrats, in contrast, feel the media does understand them. Sixty-three percent of Independents say they are misunderstood by the media.”
The same survey showed a majority of the public not feeling “connected” to the media, and only 21 percent expressing “a lot of trust” in the information they get from national media. (Local media do at least a little better, with 28 percent having a lot of trust in them.)
While it is unfair to say these numbers prove that the media isn’t doing its job well, they do show a persisting cultural disconnect between national journalists and so-called Middle America. A national media cohort that acted more professionally would make real efforts to close that cultural gap, rather than sneering at those outside of their cultural bubble especially on matters as personal as faith.
Again, this divide is nothing new. Witness the 2002 survey conducted by an Indiana University group which found that “34 percent of journalists say they have no religious affiliation, compared with 13 percent among the general population who said the same in a 2002 Pew Research Center survey.”
And, for an even bigger gap, “The journalists were also asked how important religion or religious beliefs were to them. Roughly a third (35 percent) said they were ‘very important.’ By comparison, the figure among the general population, as measured that same year by Gallup, was nearly double at 61 percent.”
That was actually an improvement over a well-regarded survey from the early 1980s, where only 8 percent of top journalists said they go to church or synagogue weekly, while 86 percent said they seldom or never attend religious services.
The continuing media focus on Karen Pence’s teaching job, with its mischaracterizations and its sometimes bizarre insinuations that it is somehow a deliberate political ploy, is much more grist for this mill. For example, in the Pence case, the media shows not just a failure to understand the distinctions many Christians make between sexual orientation and sexual behavior but an outright, almost aggressively ignorant refusal to acknowledge that distinction.
No wonder more than half of Americans think the media doesn’t understand them. Much of the media, against all professional ethics, don’t even try to understand. Contempt from the media begets public contempt for the media — much to the detriment of civil society.