Dr. Lee Becker at the MAPOR conference.

Cox Center Researchers Present Two Papers At Public Opinion Conference

Researchers in the future should try to understand what citizens around the world really know about freedom of the media in their countries and the freedom of internet operation, a team of public opinion experts from Gallup and the University of Georgia told a scientific conference in November.

The evidence is that the public generally agrees with the assessments about media freedom made by outside evaluators, the researchers said, but the discrepancies suggest that the public may make mistakes in their evaluations or see things the professional evaluators miss.

The team, consisting of Cynthia English and Audris Campbell of Gallup and Drs. Lee B. Becker and Tudor Vlad of the University of Georgia, reported findings of their research in a paper at the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research conference Nov. 18 and 19 in Chicago.

The researchers relied on data from the Gallup World Poll, which regularly surveys adult residents in more than 160 countries around the world representing more than 98 percent of the world’s population.

The researchers made a series of comparisons between findings from the World Poll and reports from other organizations, including Freedom House, a nongovernmental organization based in New York and Washington, and the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency based in Geneva.

They found that the ITU measures of internet penetration matched with those from the World Poll in terms of relative standing of countries around the world but that the levels of penetration differed. The researchers said they are more confident in the World Poll data because of the ability to say clearly how and when penetration was measured.

More than 200 public opinion researchers from around the United States attended the conference, a central theme of which was analysis of polling leading up to the U.S. presidential election.

Scott Keeter with the Pew Research Center in Washington, in a keynote address, reminded the group that the polls did not miss the outcome of the popular vote. The final popular vote total gives Hillary Clinton 2 percentage points advantage over Donald Trump, or what the polls leading up to the Nov. 8 election predicted. Trump won 306 Electoral College votes, compared with 232 for Clinton.

The paper by English, Becker, Campbell and Vlad is one in a series of papers looking at media freedom by Drs. Becker and Vlad, director and associate director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research. The Cox Center is a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

In a separate paper at the conference, Dr. Becker and former graduate student Mentian Chen updated earlier research they had done on public opinion regarding the media.

That research shows that the American public is very critical of media organizations, of journalists, and of journalistic practices.

The two researchers relied on survey data going back more than 40 years looking at how the public assesses journalism and journalistic organizations.

For a copy of the English, Becker, Campbell and Vlad paper click here.

For a copy of the Becker and Chen paper click here.