In a war between the president and the news media, there may be no winners...

July 26, 2017, 5:47 PM GMT+0

53% of U.S Adults disapprove of how Donald Trump is handling the media

As President Donald Trump continues to attack what he calls “fake news” and the news media keeps reporting on the internal troubles of the Trump Administration, it seems that no one comes out well. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, public assessments of media trustworthiness have declined in the last few months, but overall, Americans put more trust in specific media than in the President.

Neither the President nor the media get much credit for their interactions with one another. Majorities disapprove of how each handles the other.

There are the expected party differences. Democrats approve of the media, Republicans approve of the President. Independents disapprove of both.

As far as the tone of the media’s presidential coverage, more see it as unfair than describe it as fair. Just about half of Republicans say it is “very unfair.”

Since early May, the President attacked CNN seven times in tweets, and took on MSNBC and the Morning Joe hosts. Trump referred to “Fake News” 34 times in that time period – more than half the references he made to “Fake News” in all his tweets since February 4. Every one of those tweets received negative public reaction in the YouGov Tweetindex.

But those tweets may have had their desired effect, as several major media outlets have fallen in public esteem in the past few months. In early May more people believed that three prominent newspapers (The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall St. Journal) and three cable news outlets (CNN, FOX NEWS and MSNBC) were more trustworthy than not. Now, only The Wall St. Journal gets higher trustworthy than non-trustworthy ratings, but even its assessment has fallen.

Significant percentages do not rate these news organizations as either trustworthy or not.

Still, when asked to decide whether they had more trust in the the President or four of those organizations (The Times, The Post, CNN and Fox News), the general public chose the news outlets every time.

Independents and Democrats choose all four news outlets over the President, even the more conservative Fox News. Republicans have a different view: in each case, they choose the President over the news outlet – including when they are asked to pick between the President and Fox News.

A third of the public are willing to have courts fine the news media for biased or inaccurate reporting; somewhat fewer would let the courts shut down media outlets. Republicans are more likely than the public overall to favor such options. More than half of Republicans are in favor of fining news outlets for biased or wrong reporting, and 45% approve of allowing them to be shut down. But there is a general sense that doing either of these things – especially shutting down a news media outlet – would be a violation of the First Amendment. Republicans are closely divided on the implications for the First Amendment. A plurality of Republicans say fines would not violate the First Amendment, while a plurality think closing a news outlet would.