Republicans massively underrepresented among reporters, and other interesting survey results

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Just 7 percent of journalists identify as Republicans, down from 26 percent in 1971. While the ratio of journalists who identify as Democrats has also decreased — from 36 percent in 1971 to 28 percent today, they still outnumber Republican journalists four to one.

These findings, in a study by two professors of journalism at Indiana, reflect that the percent of Democratic journalists roughly represents the portion of Democrats in the population, this is far from the case for Republicans.

The study used the “American Journalist in the Digital Age” survey, which has been conducted in 1971, 1982, 1992, 2002, and 2013. This most recent installment surveyed 1,080 reporters.

In evaluating figures over time, it is clear that partisanship (or at least the admission of such) has gone down. What is less clear is where the plurality of journalists who identify as “independents” fall on the liberal-to-conservative spectrum.

As noted by recent reports, it is erroneous to assume that “independent” means “moderate” in any middle-of-the-road sense. To the contrary, most self-proclaimed independents tend to vote either farther to the right than Republicans or farther to the left than Democrats.

In 2013, just over 50 percent of journalists claimed to be “independent” while another 15 percent identified as “other.”

Other findings from this survey reflect that nearly 60 percent of reporters feel that journalism is heading in the “wrong direction,” while 23 percent feel the field is heading in the “right direction.”

In about equal proportions, 63 percent of reporters claim that their newsrooms have shrunk in workforce size this year, while 24 percent say that their newsrooms have remained the same.

Further, the median age for journalists has increased — from a low of age 32 in 1982 to a high of age 47 today. Meanwhile, the ratio of female journalists has increased from 20 percent in 1971 to 38 percent now; and yet female journalists are far more likely to leave the profession sooner than men. While the percentage of minority journalists has increased overall since 1971 (from 5 percent to 9 percent), this proportion is down from 10 percent in 2002.

Approximately 92 percent of journalists today are college graduates, compared with 48 percent in 1971.

The percentage of journalists who report being “very satisfied” with their job has dropped from a high of 49 percent in 1971 to a dismal low of 23 percent today. Perceived autonomy by reporters has also decreased — from 60 percent in 1971 to just 34 percent in 2013.

New questions in the survey regard the impact and uses of social media — from how reporters use these new technologies to communicate with people, enhance their credibility, or report on stories more quickly.  Most reporters (80 percent) said they mainly use social media to “promote myself and my work.”  Just 6 percent feel that social media decreases their workload, and 30 percent feel it enhances their credibility.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.