The UK public opinion on whether the media are doing a good job during the Covid-19 crisis is almost evenly split three ways, according to the latest Reuters Institute report.
Almost a third of the public believe the media has not been critical enough of the government. However similar figures apply for those who consider the media is doing a good job and those who believe it is being too critical.
The latest research indicates that opinion of how well the media and the government are doing during the coronavirus emergency is split along political lines.
A third of those asked felt the media was a source of misleading or false information on the virus, a similar figure to those concerned about the government, individual politicians and people they do not know personally.
The survey was undertaken between April 24 and April 28. The main findings include:
UK public opinion is split three ways between those who think the news media have not been critical enough of the government response (30%), those who think it has been covered fairly (28%), and those who think the coverage has been too critical (29%).
Judgement of news coverage is polarised along political lines, with 63% on the left feeling the news media has not been critical enough, and 66% of those on the right saying news media has been too critical of the government.
About a third of respondents say they are very or extremely concerned about false or misleading information about coronavirus from the UK government (32%), from individual politicians (36%), from news organisations (31%), and from ordinary people whom they do not know personally (33%).
Although there are small differences in concern over potential misinformation from news organisations, opinion is broadly similar across the political spectrum. However, concerns over the UK government as a potential source of misinformation are polarised along partisan lines, with 51% of respondents on the political left saying they are very or extremely concerned about false or misleading information from the UK government, versus 22% among those on the right.
Asked to compare the UK government’s response to most other developed countries, almost half (46%) say it has been worse, around a third (36%) about the same, and 12% say better. Again, responses are highly polarised along partisan lines.
Overall, most respondents (55%) still think that the current approach has found the right balance between protecting the economy and protecting people from coronavirus. One-in-five (19%) say it is too focused on protecting the economy, 14% too focused on protecting people from the virus. Responses to this question are less polarised. 41% on the political left say the current balance is right.
The survey was designed by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford to collect data on how people navigate news and information during the coronavirus pandemic.
“News is central to how people understand the coronavirus crisis and evaluate the government’s response to it. But people’s perception of both the government response, and the news coverage of it, is highly polarised along political lines.”
The report adds: “There are very pronounced political differences in people’s judgement of news media coverage of the government response. To measure this, we asked people to place themselves on a seven-point scale ranging from ‘very left-wing’, through ‘center’, to ‘very right-wing’. Those that selected either ‘very left-wing’ or ‘fairly left-wing’ were grouped as being on the left, with the process mirrored to group those on the right.
“For those that self-identify with the left, 63% say the news media has not been critical enough of the government response. However, for 66% of those on the right, the news media has been too critical of the government.”