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Poll: Obama policies should be covered better
News release

By the First Amendment Center

  • Survey summary
  • Full results

    WASHINGTON — The public wants the news media to do a better job of reporting on the Obama administration’s policies and practices on the economy — with health care a second choice — than it did in the president’s first year, according to the results of a new Gallup survey conducted last week for the First Amendment Center and the Newseum.

    The national survey was conducted by Gallup on Jan. 20-21, one year after President Obama took office. It is the latest in periodic “State of the First Amendment” public opinion surveys commissioned by the First Amendment Center and the Newseum.

    Among the survey results, released today in advance of tonight’s State of the Union address by President Obama:

  • Overall, 40% of those responding said the economy was the area in which they would “most like to see the news media do a better job of reporting on the policies and practices of the Obama administration,” followed by 30% who said health care. Better reporting regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was cited by 12%, and on the war on terror, 11%.
  • 46% of independents and 43% of Republicans cited the economy as the area in which they wanted the news media to do a better job, compared to 35% of Democrats.
  • 42% of Democrats wanted the news media to do a better job of reporting on Obama’s health-care policies, cited by 23% of independents and 27% of Republicans.

    Comparing the job the news media have done in Obama’s first year to reporting on the first year of previous administrations, the survey found:

  • Among Democrats, 28% said the news media have done a “better” job, while 21% said worse.
  • Among Republicans, 14% said the news media have done a “better” job, while 48% said “worse.”
  • Among independents, 21% said the news media have done a “better” job, while 28% said “worse.”

    The Gallup survey also found:

  • About two-thirds of Americans rate as either “fair” or “poor” the job the news media have done in Obama’s first year in its First Amendment free-press role as a “watchdog on government.” Of those responding to the survey, 37% rate it as “fair” and 27% rate it “poor,” while 26% rate it “good” and 8% as “excellent.
  • Asked to rank where the news media did the best job of reporting in Obama’s first year from a list of four topics — terrorism, wars, economy or health care — the largest group of respondents, 30%, said “none.”

    "There may be some 'kill the messenger' sentiment here, but the survey does remind us that the public — regardless of political party — looks to the news media to keep an eye on people in power," said Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center and the Newseum.

    Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,026 adults ages 18 and older, conducted by Gallup on Jan. 20-21. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. Interviews were conducted on land-line telephones and cellular phones.

    Experts at the First Amendment Center are available to discuss the survey findings:

    Ken Paulson, president and chief operating officer of the Newseum and the First Amendment Center; and Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center.

    To arrange an interview:

  • For Ken Paulson: Contact Jonathan Thompson, media relations coordinator, Newseum. Office: 202/292-6353; cell phone: 202/821-8926;

  • For Gene Policinski: Contact 615/727-1600;

    The First Amendment Center supports the First Amendment and builds understanding of its core freedoms through education, information and entertainment. The center, with offices at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C., is an operating program of the Freedom Forum and is associated with the Newseum and the Diversity Institute. Its affiliation with Vanderbilt University is through the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies. Its offices on the Vanderbilt campus are in the John Seigenthaler Center. The center is nonpartisan and does not lobby or litigate.

    The Newseum offers visitors an experience that blends five centuries of news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on exhibits. The Newseum is located at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., on America’s Main Street between the White House and the U.S. Capitol and adjacent to the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall. The exterior’s unique architectural features include a 74-foot-high marble engraving of the First Amendment and an immense front wall of glass through which passers-by can watch the museum fulfill its mission of providing a forum where the news media and the public can gain a better understanding of each other. For more information:

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