Pew poll: Americans hate journalists, even more than they did four years ago

In a Pew survey of Americans’ attitudes about occupations, journalists suffered the worst fall in the last four years while the military maintained its top position. Also interesting, and worth pondering for those in the national news who constantly harp on the GOP for its outreach to women, journalists seem to have a serious woman problem:


Compared with the ratings four years ago, journalists have dropped the most in public esteem. The share of the public saying that journalists contribute a lot to society is down 10 percentage points, from 38% in 2009 to 28% in 2013. The drop is particularly pronounced among women (down 17 points). About as many U.S. adults now say journalists contribute “not very much” or “nothing at all” to society (27%) as say they contribute a lot (28%).

Down 17 points among women over four years? Even Mitt Romney couldn’t come close to pulling that off. In seriousness, what caused the precipitous drop-off? There seems to be a very good opportunity for someone to figure this out and serve at least some of this currently poorly served market. Political news attracts a more male audience, in general, but maybe general news coverage just isn’t addressing economic worries women are facing or isn’t telling those stories in a way that appeals to them. Allow me to hope, for the sake of my gender, that the answer isn’t more Jody Arias-style coverage.

Not mentioned in the Pew story, but interesting and counterintuitive given the near-constant narrative of the last four years: business executive is the only occupation whose score went up since 2009. Granted, it’s only three points, from a paltry 21 percent who believe they contribute a lot to 24 percent, and it still resides near the bottom of the list, but it is curious that’s the one occupation trending upward as the last four years have taken a toll on every other category.



If I didn’t know better, I’d say the profession of journalism is in serious danger of becoming a rump, regional profession, losing ground across all demographic groups and ending up a stale relic of a bygone era. Perhaps the GOP should be urging journalism’s rebranding as urgently as journalism is pushing the GOP’s. The GOP could even teach journalism a thing or two about keeping the 50+ crowd happy. Journalism lost ground across all age groups:

The decline in public views about journalists’ contribution to society since 2009 is more pronounced among women than men. Roughly three-in-ten women (29%) say journalists contribute a lot to society’s well-being, down 17 percentage points from 46% in 2009. Men’s views on this are about the same today as they were in 2009.

The decline in the perceived contribution of journalists cuts across partisan leanings, age and education level. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents as well as Republicans and Republican-leaning independents all are less likely to say journalists contribute a lot to society’s well-being today (down 8 points among Republicans/leaning Republicans and 10 points among Democrats/leaning Democrats).

And, yes, I know I’m a media person in or near the journalism realm, and I’m happy to take my lumps. I think it’s healthy for a profession, especially one customarily pumped full of save-the-world propaganda during its professional training, to have to evaluate just how valuable it is to its fellow citizens and perhaps change its behavior accordingly.


The military reigns supreme, with teachers and doctors close behind, and lawyers taking the bottom slot:

Americans continue to hold the military in high regard, with more than three-quarters of U.S. adults (78%) saying that members of the armed services contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being. That’s a modest decline from 84% four years ago, the last time the Pew Research Center asked the public to rate various professions. But the military still tops the list of 10 occupational groups, followed closely by teachers, medical doctors, scientists and engineers. A solid majority of the public says each of those occupations contributes a lot to society.

I wonder if the answer would have been different if the question had been about teachers unions?

Front-page photo via Jon S on Flickr.

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