30 percent of Americans say Internet a bad influence on U.S. politics

Is it the Carlos Danger effect? Photo: marquetteturner.com

SAN DIEGO, August 11, 2013 - Is it the Carlos Danger effect?

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Americans are growing less enthused about the Internet’s influence on American culture, politics and journalism.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 31% now say the Internet’s impact on American culture overall has been good for the country, down from 37% in a similar April poll. Twenty-nine percent (29%) think the Internet’s impact on American culture has been bad for the nation, while 30% say neither.

Only 32% now think the Internet’s impact on journalism has been good for the nation, also down from April. Twenty-two percent (22%) think its impact on journalism has been bad for the nation, while 35% think it has been neither good nor bad. Twelve percent (12%) are not sure. 

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Americans, when given the choice, still prefer to read a printed version of a newspaper than the online version. It’s still a majority, but it’s dropping. The percentage is the lowest measured in several years of tracking.

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Most voters still get their news from television and consider the news reported by the media generally trustworthy.  One in four get their news primarily online.

The most surprising finding of the poll: when it comes to Internet journalism, two-thirds of adults believe the reporting from Internet news sources is at least somewhat reliable; 56% are confident that Internet and other news sources can make up the difference should many newspapers go out of business. This will not make a lot of print journalists happy.

There is a serious need for more media literacy training among Americans. Far too many people accept the information they read on the Internet at face value. Few apply any skepticism, or do their own independent fact checking through a source such as Snopes.com

This is how completely false beliefs and information spread. A few making the rounds currently: photographs purportedly document that 17-year-old shooting victim Trayvon Martin was a muscular, 6‘2” man or that Koch Industries paid George Zimmerman’s legal fees (both are false). There are warnings about mold or worms being discovered in packages of Capri Sun fruit drink; and a claim that calling or *112 from a cell phone in any state will connect you with highway patrol dispatchers. Not the case.  

Those who trust in the reliability of online news sources are much more likely than those who don’t to say the Internet’s impact on journalism has been good for America.

Just 28% of adults think the Internet’s impact on American politics has been good for the country, down nine points from April. Thirty-one percent (31%) think the Internet’s impact on politics has been bad for the United States, but 29% rate it somewhere in between. Again, 12% are undecided. 

Generally, American adults think the Internet’s impact was either good across all three facets or bad across all.

Men are more likely than women to say the Internet’s impact on journalism and American culture has been good for the country, but they run even on its impact on politics.

Adults under 40 are more likely than older adults to say the Internet’s impact in all three areas has been good for the nation. Older Americans are more likely to think the Internet has had a bad impact on politics. 

There is, however, virtually no partisan difference of opinion when it comes to the Internet’s impact on politics.

The national survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted on August 6 and 7, 2013 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research LLC


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Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.


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