Most Americans don’t like journalists sharing opinions on social media, but Democrats are happier with it

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A new poll by Gallup/Knight Foundation has looked into the way Americans perceive the presence and activities of journalists on social media.

The survey has revealed that about two-thirds of respondents welcome journalists interacting with users online – but only if the purpose is to correct or expand their reporting. In other words, as long as they are being professional.

Even if Democrats lead the way (79 percent) in approving of social media interactions with those who bring them the news – Republicans are not far behind, at 65 percent, while independents fall in the middle (74 percent).

It's probably not news to many people that journalists are increasingly making their online presence a clearly and forcefully biased affair – after all, most media outlets have long since given up any semblance of impartiality.

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But journalists using social media platforms to promote their personal opinions on current events does not sit easy with their audiences. Overall, 65 percent disapprove of this kind of behavior, among them 27 strongly, while 34 percent approve.

The survey's results show that although many more Democrats (47 percent) show approval than Republicans (25 percent) and independents (27 percent) – support for journalists using social media to push a personal stance is still less than half of each of these political groups.

There's another thing that the poll may be unwittingly revealing as it shows that twice as many Democrats as Republicans are comfortable with personal views and opinions presented by journalists online.

Given the strong preference that mot people have for spending time in social media echo chambers – and it's something that tech giants behind these platforms cultivate – it's not far fetched to assume the reason why many more Democrats than Republicans like to hear journalists' personal opinions is because they agree with them.

Another result of the poll revealed that at least 75 percent of Americans would like to see journalists cover stories that their audience suggests, and also see them “dispute interpretations of facts reported by other news outlets.”

But while the word interaction is used to describe the presence of journalists on social media, it doesn't seem to be true interaction, and respondents recognize it: only ten percent saw evidence of journalists frequently engaging with their audiences.

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Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovich is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovich is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]