WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Most Americans want the media to present facts in news stories without adding interpretation, a Pew Research Center survey said this weekend amid a debate in the media about its role in covering Donald Trump’s unconventional presidential campaign.
Journalists face the issue of how much guidance they should provide to help their audiences make sense of the news. The question is especially keen after the 2016 election when the media grappled with challenging false statements made by Republican Trump in his campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Fifty-nine percent of U.S. adults reject the idea of adding interpretation, saying that the news media should present the facts alone, the survey showed. Four in 10 favored adding some interpretation to the facts.
“Although the public prefers the news media to present ‘just the facts,’ they may not even agree on what the facts are,” Pew said in a statement.
In the same survey, 81 percent of registered voters said that most supporters of Clinton and Trump not only disagreed over plans and policies, but also disagreed on basic facts.
Voters who supported Trump, now the president-elect, favored a “just the facts” approach by 71 percent to 29 percent. Clinton supporters were evenly split on the issue.
The survey showed strong support for fact-checking by the media.
The election campaign saw a proliferation of fake news sites and articles on social media competing with news published by traditional media, although this was not included in the survey.
Eighty-one percent of those who prefer facts without interpretation believe fact-checking is a major or minor responsibility of the news media. Among those who prefer interpretation, 83 percent think fact-checking is a responsibility.
The survey of 4,132 adults was conducted from Sept. 27 to Oct. 10, before Election Day. The margin of error is 2.8 percentage points.