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WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Free Press released a poll surveying public attitudes about media and technology in an election year. The comprehensive survey shows that Americans believe the current media system is failing to meet the civic needs of a functioning democracy. People are also highly concerned about privacy and their ability to access reliable and trustworthy information on local, national and global affairs.

More information about the poll can be found here.

At a time of rising distrust in mainstream media, declining local-news coverage and the rise of social media as a source of news and information, Free Press sought to understand Americans’ attitudes about media, technology and democracy.

Free Press worked with widely respected pollsters at the African American Research Collaborative and BSP Research to ask 3,000 people across the United States dozens of questions. Questions delved into a number of media and tech issues to gain a thorough understanding of where people stand in 2024. The poll oversampled Black, Latino and Asian-American/Pacific-Islander (AAPI) populations, allowing for an accurate and detailed analysis of the impact of old and new communications technology on people of color.

Findings include:

  • As the 2024 election approaches, people across the political and racial spectrum are very concerned about the deliberate spread of online misinformation and want policy interventions that address the problem. (Overall, 79 percent are concerned that the information they are seeing is false, fake or a deliberate attempt to confuse.)
  • Large majorities are also concerned about election coverage in their communities. While local-news outlets received high favorability numbers among those surveyed, people worry that local coverage isn’t sufficient enough for them to be familiar with local candidates. (Only 28 percent of all adults say they feel “very well informed” when voting in local elections, with even lower percentages of Latino and AAPI populations saying they feel very well informed.)
  • A majority of respondents (51 percent) agree that “having more independent news outlets is important to stopping disinformation and is good for the health of our democracy.” Only 32 percent say they think “we already have enough choices in news outlets.”
  • A majority (60 percent) agree that we need to increase “funding opportunities so that there is more diversity in who owns and operates independent news and information sources.” The largest majorities agreeing with this statement were among respondents who are people of color.
  • A majority (52 percent) also agree that “We should increase public funding to create and expand local and independent news.”
  • The majority of respondents believe it's “acceptable” for tech companies to prevent the distribution of political ads that violate terms of use against the spread of false information. (Overall, 71 percent of respondents say they believe that “social media companies should limit false or fake information about elections that could be considered anti-democratic”).
  • A large majority (72 percent) across demographic categories say it is “acceptable” for platforms to block content that is considered racist or hateful.

These are just a few of the results of the 2024 poll. Survey respondents are indicating a need for reform of the media and tech sectors in additional areas, including protecting privacy and addressing the cost of internet access. These sentiments are shared across various demographic groups and the ideological spectrum.

Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González said:

“Across racial, ethnic and political divides, the poll shows high levels of concern about the twin problems of dwindling local news and the prevalence of false information online.

“At a time of intense partisan gridlock, we see more consensus on these issues than one might expect. For instance, a vast majority of Americans oppose racism and other hate online and want social-media companies to block such content. And even as some on the far right are organizing to ban books about slavery in school districts across the country, 55 percent of all Americans and half of conservatives say that media institutions should acknowledge their histories of racial bias.

“Even though we’re living through an extremely difficult moment, there are great opportunities to join together for a just and inclusive media and tech ecosystem, one that supports a multiracial democracy. Those who seek to divide us and advance authoritarianism have captured far fewer people than it seems, and we must organize together to inspire the changes Americans say they want.”

Free Press Senior Advisor for Economic and Policy Analysis S. Derek Turner said:

“The poll indicates that people of color are disproportionately high users of online media for news and information, and are therefore likely to be the most impacted by the choices that platform companies and legislators make.

“The findings show us that an alarming number of people don’t feel very informed about local elections, that the high cost of internet access is still a challenge for many Americans, and that people are concerned about technology’s role in their lives, and particularly in terms of how it violates their privacy. Free Press has proposed a number of structural policy solutions to confront these challenges. I look forward to working alongside Free Press members, allies and policymakers to address the concerns that Americans expressed in this survey.”

BSP Research President and founding partner Matt A. Barreto said:

“The poll yielded interesting insights into news-and-information consumption across racial and ethnic lines. It shows that two-thirds of Latino and Black people seek out culturally relevant news and information, and that two-thirds of Latinos seek out news and information in Spanish. I was struck that Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are much less likely to report having enough information to make informed decisions when voting in local elections. Notably, only 28 percent of all Americans indicate feeling very informed about local elections. That Latinos and AAPI people were even less likely to report having enough information is worthy of concern.”

African American Research Collaborative CEO Henry Fernandez said:

“This survey has made clear that we’re still in the Wild West of fact checking, with a large majority of Americans taking it upon themselves to verify information they read or hear. An overwhelming majority of respondents expressed concerns about the spread of misinformation in an election year. This indicates that there’s a definite role for media and advocates to ensure that news and information better serves the needs of a diverse, multiracial democracy.”

Notes on Methodology: Prior to designing the polling instrument, the African American Research Collaborative and BSP Research held four focus groups to observe how Americans think about and discuss their use of media and tech. There was one focus group each of Black women, young Midwesterners, parents of color of young teens, and Spanish-speaking Latinos from California. This qualitative research helped inform questions asked in the resulting survey.

The pollsters surveyed 3,000 American adults to better understand how people use media and technology to access political news and other information, how they deal with online misinformation, what privacy concerns they have about online platforms, what they believe the appropriate roles are for platform content moderation and public policy, and whether they perceive a need for more independent news sources in an election year.

The poll oversampled Black, Latino and AAPI respondents to generate results with smaller margins of error that enable deeper comparisons and analysis. The blended phone and online poll was conducted in the field from March 1–18 of this year.

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