Although media houses are expected to be unbiased, a lot of Americans have come to distrust the media reporting on political news and events, owing to the growing partisan polarization in American political discourse. In a 2017 survey, 43 percent of Republican respondents considered the media an enemy of the American people, while 33 percent Democrats believed the media to be an ally.
Fox News is the most prominent conservative-leaning news outlet in the mainstream. The channel leads in television ratings among the major American cable news outlets since left-leaning viewers are mostly spread across the other major networks. Fox News was the main source for news among voters during the 2016 presidential campaign, accounting for a 19 percent share of viewership. During the 2016 elections, digital news sources used regularly by Trump voters included Breitbart News and the Drudge Report, while the Huffington Post was more regularly used by Clinton voters.
Media ads are one of the more direct ways in which candidates attempt to sway voters. Hillary Clinton would still go on to lose the election even though her campaign aired almost four times the amount of television ads in comparison with the eventual winner, Donald Trump. Another important avenue which candidates seeking political office use to reach out to the voters is nationally televised debates. More than 84 million people tuned into the first debate for the 2016 presidential election, making it the most watched presidential debate in modern American history.
Following the 2016 presidential election, American intelligence agencies ascertained that Russia attempted to meddle in the elections through propagation of fake news stories, mostly via social media. Facebook was the number one most likely source of fake news, and examples of such fake news stories included claims that then-president Obama ordered a ban on the pledge of allegiance in schools, that Hillary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS, or that Donald Trump won the popular vote. More than half of Americans believe made up or fake news to be a significant problem.