What is your least preferred political ideology

Datasheet: News media and political attitudes in Germany

This is followed by specific insights into attitudes and habits regarding the news media in Germany. These findings come from a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center on October 30 through December 20, 2017 on news media and politics in eight Western European countries. The survey spanned five countries in the north (Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom) and three in the south (France, Italy and Spain).

CORRECTION: This data sheet was updated on May 22, 2018, because there is a possibility that the choice of words used to describe the German news provider Die Tageszeitung may have confused the participants. All references to this provider have been removed. The conclusions of the report were largely unaffected.

Opinions about the news media in Germany

Assessments of the importance of the news media and the trust placed in them vary significantly from country to country. In general, adults in Northern European countries, such as Sweden and Germany, are more likely to say that the news media is very important and that they trust the news media, while those in France and Italy are more likely to say that this view is shared least is.

For a majority of German adults (61%) the news media are very important to society, and around two thirds (64%) say they trust the news media. A fifth of them have a lot of trust in the news providers.

In most of the countries surveyed, people with populist attitudes are less likely to say that the news media is important and trust the news media than people who do not hold populist views. In general, the differences in these attitudes towards the news media between people on the left and right of the ideological spectrum are small.

The populist dividing lines in attitudes towards the media are also very pronounced in Germany: 47% of people with populist attitudes say they trust the news media, while this proportion is 78% for people without populist attitudes. When asked about the importance of the news media, 51% of people with populist opinions say that the news media are important to society in Germany, compared to 75% of people with non-populist views.

Main sources used for news in Germany

As for the news sources respondents say they use the most, the dividing lines between populist and non-populist adults are not as pronounced as the dividing lines relating to more general attitudes towards the news media. And in the southern countries, there tends to be a wider gap in the preferred primary news source between people on the left and right of the ideological spectrum than between people with and without populist views.

In Germany, there is no difference between politically left and right-wing people with regard to the media sources most used for news. People with both right and left ideology name the ARD as their most important source of news.

Where users locate the ideology of news providers - right and left

For many of the news providers in the eight countries, people who use a particular provider to deliver their news tend to believe that it is closer to their own left-right ideology. In Germany, this applies to one of the providers that was the subject of the survey: the public broadcaster ARD. News users on the right-hand side of the spectrum tend to locate this news source as closer to their own ideology. As far as the orientation of the three news providers RTL, Sat1 and Der Spiegel is concerned, news users on the right and left largely agree. The tabloid Bild and the daily newspapers Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) were not included in this study because the sample size of left or right users was insufficient for an analysis.1

Where the public classifies a news provider politically, it usually does not match the actual ideological classification of its average audience. For each of the news providers about which questions were asked in the survey, the average audience (according to their own statements) tends to be classified as close to the ideological middle. However, people who have heard of the individual providers tend to locate them either further to the left or further to the right of the actual ideological position of the audience of the respective provider.

Germany is an exception in this regard. Not only are the news consumers of most German providers close to the political center, people who have heard of the individual providers usually also locate them close to the middle of the left-right spectrum.

Trust in the news media

In seven of the eight countries surveyed, the public news organization in each country is also the provider that is most trusted. In Germany, eight out of ten respondents say they would trust the public service news organization ARD.

As with confidence in the news media in general, confidence in certain news providers depends on populist tendencies, with people with populist views expressing a lower level of trust than people without such views.

In Germany, for example, the probability that people say they trust the FAZ is 29 percentage points lower for people with populist tendencies than for people without a populist opinion. Trust is also split along the ideological left-right spectrum in Germany - people who place themselves on the left on the ideology scale ranging from 0 to 6 are 15 percentage points less likely to trust RTL than people on the right .

Use of social media and settings

Many people in Western Europe get their news from social media, and Facebook is cited as the most widely used news platform.

Among German adults, 41% get their news via social media; a quarter of these people (26%) get daily news via social media. Facebook is the most widely used social network for news. Young people in Germany (aged 18 to 29) are more likely to receive daily news via social media than people aged 50 and over (50% versus 11%).

Around half or more of social media news consumers in each of the eight countries surveyed said they knew the sources they see on social media. Still, sizeable minorities say they usually do not pay attention to the source of the news you find there.

The consumers of news on social media in Germany are comparable to other Western Europeans - 56% know the sources of the news they find on social media, but a quarter do not pay any attention to the sources there.

additional Information

This text has been translated from English into German.

A summary of the results contained in the full report is available in German on the Internet. The full report and the methodology used are also available online, but only in English.

To view this information online in German and English and to view data on the seven other Western European countries participating in the survey in English and in the respective national language, visit: https://pewrsr.ch/GermanyNewsAttitudes.