New report shows American voters overwhelmingly support press freedom but are missing signs it’s under threat

Amid an alarming confluence of threats to journalists and the news media, there is a lack of urgency among American voters around the idea that press freedom is at risk in the U.S., according to a new research report released Wednesday by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

A majority of voters, 52 percent, said they did not see press freedom as under threat — a lack of perceived risk that was even higher among some when viewed through a partisan lens: 66 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Independents said they perceived little or no threat to the press, while just 38 percent of Democrats gave the same response.

The Reporters Committee led the bipartisan research project — funded by the Democracy Fund and conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Echelon Insights — in an effort to better understand the public’s attitudes toward press freedom at a moment in time when trust in the press remains low, harmful rhetoric against journalists emanates from the nation’s top government officials, investigations of unauthorized disclosures to the press are on the rise, restrictions on access to the White House and key agencies and officials are tightening, and newsrooms battle lawsuits targeted at crippling or bankrupting them while they face increasing economic strains. The research took on even more significance after the murder of four journalists and a sales assistant at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, by a gunman who had a long history of making threats against the newspaper. 

Much valuable research has been conducted to address Americans’ views of the media and the roots of the decline in trust, and the survey aimed to analyze how some of those factors affect the public’s belief in and, crucially, its support of the free press. The research relied on insights gleaned from studies by the Knight Foundation and Gallup, the Trusting News project, Pew Research Center, the Media Insight Project, and Poynter, along with input from a variety of stakeholders and advisers at each stage. (Read more...)