Americans are particularly divided politically on whether or not they think news media criticism keeps political leaders in line – the so-called “watchdog role” of the news media. A vast majority of Democrats (82%) say in the survey conducted earlier this year that they support the news media’s watchdog role, believing that news media criticism keeps political leaders from doing things that shouldn’t be done. On the other hand, the majority of Republicans (58%) think news media criticism gets in the way of political leaders doing their job.
The 44-percentage-point gap between Democratic and Republican support for the watchdog role (82% vs. 38% respectively), along with the 47-point difference last year, are the largest measured by Pew Research Center in the more than three decades the question has been asked. In contrast, members of the two parties were about equally likely to support the news media’s watchdog role in 2016 during the Obama administration.