Six reasons young adults think the news media is dividing our country

Knight Foundation
Trust, Media and Democracy


A new report released by Knight Foundation shows that young adults are concerned about the impact of news on democracy and unity in the country, expressing that news sources divide and polarize citizens.

Conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, the report analyzes the findings of a survey of 1,660 adults between the ages of 18 and 34. It includes large samples of African American and Hispanic participants in order to explore beliefs and behaviors across races and ethnicities.

The report found that young adults interact with the news frequently with 88 percent accessing news at least weekly, including 53 percent who do so every day. As such, it holds important findings for news organizations and journalists as they try to build their influence and reach among the next generation.

Here are six findings that stood out to us:

1. Young adults are worried about the impact of news sources on democracy and the unity of the country:

Fifty-eight percent of young adults believe their favorite news source helps democracy. When it comes to their least-liked source, 64 percent say it hurts democracy. In addition, 73 percent say their least-liked news source divides the country, and only 47 percent say their favorite source helps unite it. When comparing partisan attitudes, 51 percent of Democrats say their favorite source unites the public, while 42 percent of Republicans say the same.

2. Many young adults believe that news sources, even their favorite, have a liberal or conservative ideological slant:

Overall, about 45 percent of young adults say their favorite news source does not have a political slant. 42 percent label their favorite news source as liberal; 13 percent say their favorite news source is conservative. 48 percent of young adults say their least-favorite source has a conservative slant.

3. Young adults largely believe that their race or ethnicity is not covered regularly in the media:

Thirty-one percent of young adults say that people of their race, or issues that affect people of their race, are rarely covered in their most-liked news sources. Forty-seven percent say the same thing about their least-liked news sources. Hispanics and African Americans are especially likely to say both their most- and least-liked source fail to regularly cover issues that affect them.

4. The majority of African American and Hispanic participants do not feel like media sources accurately or fairly portray their groups, when they do get coverage:

Only 45 percent of African Americans and 40 percent of Hispanics say their most-liked source very accurately portrays their groups. Around 6 in 10 in both groups say their least-liked source portrays them slightly or not at all accurately.

5. Young adults who are highly partisan rely on news to make decisions:

Forty-one percent of young adults who identify strongly with a political party will use their favorite news source to make decisions about candidates, and 49 percent of these young adults will do the same when making decisions about policies to support.

6. Political affiliation has a big effect on perceptions of a news organization’s ideological slant:

Democrats are especially likely to perceive an ideological slant to their most- and least-liked/favorite sources. Fifty-seven percent of Democrats see their favorite news source as liberal, while 36 percent of Republicans perceive their favorite news source as very or somewhat conservative. Also, more Democrats say their least-liked source is very conservative than Republicans say their least-liked source is very liberal (75 percent vs. 68 percent).

To view the full report, visit

Image (bottom): this is a derivative of a photo by MoteOo on Pixabay and using the Pixabay License. Image effects added by Knight Foundation.



Knight Foundation
Trust, Media and Democracy

Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.