Many Americans support the use of anonymous sources in journalism

The survey was conducted by Pew Research Center.

2 min read

The use of anonymous sources by journalists in their reporting of news stories has become a topic of vigorous debate.

Over the decades, journalists within reputable news outlets, like CNN for example, have purposely engaged in frequent acts of journalistic fraud through fabrications, plagiarism, or the deceptive use of unnamed sources.

In a recent survey, conducted by Pew Research Center, most Americans say that there is a place for unnamed or anonymous sources in news pieces, but not during all occasions.

According to the survey’s co-authors, as many as 82 percent of U.S. adults believe that there are times when anonymous sources can be used by journalists to construct their news stories. However, 18 percent of survey respondents differ, stating that it is never acceptable to use sources seeking anonymity in journalism.

“These findings come from a Pew Research Center survey conducted Feb. 18 to March 2, 2020, around the time that there was continued interest and debate about the anonymous author who penned a 2018 New York Times op-ed and a subsequent book in 2019 that criticized Trump and who claimed to be an administration official,” the co-authors wrote in their report.

“The public’s approval of anonymous sourcing, then, depends heavily on why these sources are being used. But news organizations may not be making this entirely clear.”

Even if given the topic of national security or a threat to public safety, many Americans say the use of anonymous sources in journalism influences their trust in a news story.

“Nearly seven-in-ten Americans (68%) say that an anonymous source in a story has at least some influence on whether they find that story credible (21% say a great deal of influence and 47% say some influence),” the Pew Research report states.

“About three-in-ten (31%) say it has not too much influence or no influence at all. And while majorities of both Democrats and Republicans say anonymous sources have at least some influence in deciding whether to trust a story, Republicans are much more likely to say it has a great deal of influence: 31% vs. 13%.”

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan think tank devoted to public opinion polling, demographic analysis, and social science research.

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