Pub­lic sees a dan­ger in news me­dia at­tacks

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION - By David Lauter david.lauter@la­times.com Twit­ter: @DavidLauter

WASH­ING­TON — A sta­ple of Pres­i­dent Trump’s ral­lies is crit­i­cism of the news me­dia, which he has of­ten la­beled as “en­e­mies of the peo­ple.”

What do the peo­ple think?

A slight ma­jor­ity think Trump is ba­si­cally just blow­ing off steam. But Amer­i­cans also think his words can be dan­ger­ous.

Asked whether Trump’s words were an ex­am­ple of his ex­press­ing frus­tra­tion or whether he was is­su­ing a se­ri­ous warn­ing when he makes those kinds of re­marks, 45% said they be­lieved he was se­ri­ous com­pared to 55% who said he was ex­press­ing frus­tra­tion, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent USCDorn­sife/Los An­ge­les Times poll.

The pub­lic also split closely on whether Trump’s re­marks are po­ten­tially harm­ful. A 56% ma­jor­ity called Trump’s lan­guage “dan­ger­ous,” while 44% called it “harm­less.”

Peo­ple who dis­ap­prove of Trump were more likely to see his la­bel­ing the press as en­e­mies as an ex­am­ple of frus­tra­tion, rather than a se­ri­ous warn­ing. But they were also more likely than sup­port­ers to see his words as dan­ger­ous.

Over­all, about 1 in 4 of those sur­veyed said they viewed Trump’s lan­guage as harm­less vent­ing.

About 3 in 10 said that he was vent­ing, but that his words were still dan­ger­ous.

An­other 1 in 4 said they be­lieved his words were se­ri­ous and dan­ger­ous, while a slightly smaller group, about 1 in 5, said that Trump is se­ri­ous in what he says, but that it’s harm­less.

At the same time, the pub­lic over­whelm­ingly re­jects the idea that gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials should have the power to limit what the news me­dia pub­lishes or broad­casts.

The poll asked peo­ple to choose be­tween two state­ments: “News or­ga­ni­za­tions should have the free­dom to pub­lish or broad­cast any sto­ries they choose, ex­cept in very lim­ited cases on top­ics such as na­tional se­cu­rity” or “gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials should have broad au­thor­ity to limit the in­for­ma­tion that news or­ga­ni­za­tions pub­lish or broad­cast.”

By 85% to 15%, the pub­lic said that news or­ga­ni­za­tions should be free to pub­lish. A ma­jor­ity across all ma­jor de­mo­graphic and po­lit­i­cal groups took that view.

About 1 in 5 Trump sup­port­ers, how­ever, said they be­lieved that gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials should have the au­thor­ity to limit what’s pub­lished.

Women were more likely than men to sup­port lim­its on the press, al­though a large ma­jor­ity of both gen­ders op­posed the idea. Sim­i­larly, peo­ple with­out col­lege de­grees were more likely than those with a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion to sup­port lim­its.

This USC Dorn­sife/ Times poll, over­seen by sur­vey di­rec­tor Jill Dar­ling and co-spon­sored by the univer­sity’s Cen­ter for the Po­lit­i­cal Fu­ture, was con­ducted on­line among 5,045 adult Amer­i­cans.

The poll re­spon­dents were drawn from a prob­a­bil­ity-based panel main­tained by USC’s Cen­ter for Eco­nomic and So­cial Re­search for its Un­der­stand­ing Amer­ica Study. Re­sponses were weighted to ac­cu­rately re­flect known de­mo­graph­ics of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion.

The sur­vey was con­ducted Aug. 22-Sept. 24. The mar­gin of er­ror is 2 per­cent­age points in ei­ther di­rec­tion.

A full de­scrip­tion of the method­ol­ogy, poll ques­tions and data are posted on the USC web­site.

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