Apr 28, 2018

A biased news media? Most Ontarians don't think so, even most PC supporters

Authored by:

David Coletto

David Coletto

Our analysis thus far of data collected from our survey of over 4,100 Ontarians has concluded that:

In this edition of poll analysis, we explore what Ontarians report they are hearing about the party leaders and whether the media is treating each leader fairly or unfairly.

Much has been made in the United States, mainly by President Trump himself, about the media's coverage of the Trump presidency. It's not uncommon to hear him refer to the "fake news" media as an enemy of the American people. As he said recently assessing coverage of his approach to Syria, "with the media, no matter what I do, it's never tough enough because that's their narrative." 

In Ontario, Doug Ford has taken a similar approach. His campaign has decided to not have a media bus on the campaign trail, back in 2013 he and his late brother referred to the media as a "bunch of maggots" and in an email sent to PC members during his run to be PC Leader, he wrote that the "media elites were focused on helping elect Trudeau as PM" during the 2015 election.

But as my colleague Ihor wrote about in his post on Ford Nation, Ford's appeal is built on the idea that he speaks for people and against the elites that have "wrecked the province." It's a powerful message that his campaign has made core to its message. 

Just look at the sign he speaks in front of every day.

Ford Bus Jpg Size Custom Crop 0X650

So the question is, how big is the audience for the "media is biased" argument and what do Ontarians feel about how the media has covered the leaders so far?

So the question is, how big is the audience for the "media is biased" argument and what do Ontarians feel about how the media has covered the leaders so far?

Here's what we found at the time of our survey in early April:

Most Ontarians report hearing mostly negative things about Premier Wynne compared with 7% who say they are hearing mostly positive things about her. 

People are more split on Doug Ford's coverage. One in five say they are hearing mostly positive things while 24% report hearing mostly negative. 44% report hearing a mix of positive and negative about Ford.

Not surprising given how few have much impression of NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, 36% report not hearing much about her at all with 17% reporting hearing mostly good things and 8% hearing most negative things. Note, this survey was done before the NDP released its platform.


Party supporters are more likely to say they are hearing positive things about the party leader they support. 

36% of PC supporters say that media coverage of Doug Ford has been mostly positive, similar to the number of NDP supporters who feel the same way about coverage of NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

Liberal supporters are more likely to think coverage of Kathleen Wynne has been mostly negatively, but less so than those who aren't Liberal supporters.


When we ask respondents how the media has treated the three leaders in their coverage, most think that all three leaders have been treated more fairly than unfairly.  

71% think Kathleen Wynne has been treated fairly or more fairly than unfairly. 73% feel the same way about Doug Ford, while 80% feel the media has treated Andrea Horwath fairly.


Not surprisingly, party supporters are more likely to think that the media covers the leader they support unfairly, but the gap isn't that large. In fact, most Liberal, PC, and NDP supporters think the media covers the leader of the party they support more fairly than unfairly.


The Upshot

We don't see a public that's generally suspicious of the news media or the way the leaders have been covered. Most think Kathleen Wynne's coverage has been more negative than positive, but few think that the coverage has been unfair.

Perhaps most striking is how similar the views of most PC voters are to the general public. They are not more likely to think their leader has been covered unfairly than other partisans. This could change as Ford repeats the message, but I don't see a public concerned about the way the election is being covered. If anything, most think Kathleen Wynne is being covered more negatively than Ford.

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