Despite growing doubts, many Americans still retained a positive view of news outlets such as their regional newspapers, local TV, network television news and cable news networks.

While the public views much of the news media generally favourably, they are less inclined to consider those sources of news believable, according to the survey.

Seven in 10 people said they have a favourable view of their local newspaper, and almost as many say that about local TV news, cable news networks and network broadcast news.

But major national newspapers were viewed less favourably than the other sources of news.

Impartiality doubted

News organisations in general have seen a drop in the percentage of people who find them believable.

Some view the US media as too
patriotic, others as too liberal

Almost three-quarters of Americans said they think the news media tend to favour one side in their coverage - up from half who felt that way in the mid-1980s.

But a solid majority of those polled, six in 10, said they feel the news media's criticism of leaders played an important role in preventing those leaders from doing the wrong thing.

While people are critical of the press, "there is an enduring support for what the press does", said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which co-sponsored the poll.

Better practice

Rosential added: "The message isn't that people are rejecting traditional journalism, but they wish people in the news practised traditional journalism better."

The poll was taken after several high-profile cases of the US news media making mistakes or mishandling news stories, most famously illustrated by The New York Times mea culpa last  year over weak and skewered reporting on the whole Iraq weapons of mass destruction affair.

"The message isn't that people are rejecting journalism ... they wish people in the news practised journalism better"

Tom Rosenstiel,
Project for Excellence in Journalism

Americans were evenly divided on whether the news media "stands up for America" or is "too critical of America".

Since the Bush administration came to office, the prevailing attitude of the US media expected to be patriotic, reached new heights as America went to war against enemies real and percieved in the post 9/11 world.

Still, Republicans - who dominate powerful media such as the Fox News channel and much of talk radio - viewed the media as critical of America, the survey found, frequently claiming  a deep liberal bias.

New-media popularity

Elsewhere, the survey found that the source of news is changing for many - with the use of online news highest among younger adults.

Television remained the dominant source of news for all people.

US media coverage of the Iraq
war has come under scrutiny

Newspapers were the primary source of news for at least half of people 50 and over.

More than a third of people from ages 18-29 said the Internet is their main source for news. Six in 10 internet news consumers say online newspapers are at least one of the sources.

Rosenstiel said the survey suggests many people going to alternative sources for their news "are simply adding those to the mix, not using them instead of traditional journalism".

The poll of 1484 adults was taken 8-12 June and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Pew Research Center: http://www.people-press.org