Most Americans believe small business, science and tech leaders will lead the U.S. to a better future – not the news media, government or large corporations

Note: This week we’re holding our fifth annual We Media conference in Miami. Along with our research and other projects at iFOCOS, the We Media conferences, awards and community explore the cultural, political and business implications of a world connected and empowered by digital networks. This new research contributes a small piece to a big story: the beginning of a new era of humanity. You can read more on the big idea here. Thanks for your feedback, input and ideas.

MIAMI – Most Americans are putting their faith in small business owners, entrepreneurs and science and technology leaders to lead the U.S. to a better future – and they are significantly less hopeful the news media, government or large corporations will do the same, a new We Media/Zogby Interactive poll shows.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (63%) said small business and entrepreneurs will lead the U.S. to a better future, while 52% said the same of science and technology leaders. Americans are far less optimistic about the leadership of government (31%), large corporations and business leaders (21%), or traditional news media such as newspapers, television, radio, and magazines (13%).

Americans think leadership toward a better future is more likely to come from family and friends (38%), non-profit groups (32%), or even themselves (36%). The Zogby Interactive survey of 2,397 adults nationwide was conducted Feb. 11-13, 2009, and carries a margin of error of +/- 2.0 percentage points. The survey results will be featured at this week’s fifth-annual We Media Conference in Miami (www.wemedia.com), hosted by the University of Miami School of Communication and organized and produced by iFOCOS, a Reston, Va.-based media think tank (www.ifocos.org). This is the third year of the survey.

“Americans are deeply dissatisfied with traditional media’s leadership today – and they also don’t expect much in the future,” said Andrew Nachison, founder of the media think tank iFOCOS, which organizes the We Media conference, awards, community and web site (www.wemedia.com). “I’m not sure what’s worse – the dissatisfaction with the current performance, or the low expectations for the future.”

Dissatisfaction with the news media, corporations, and government runs deep

Americans are deeply dissatisfied with the leadership currently provided by large companies, government and traditional media – and they are not confident the leadership from these groups will improve in the future. The survey shows 71% are “not very” or “not at all” satisfied with the leadership provided by traditional news media. Even greater numbers of Americans are unsatisfied with the leadership of the government (74%) and large corporations and business leaders (81%).

While just one in four (27%) Americans are satisfied with the leadership provided by traditional news media, Internet media – including blogs and social networks – fared far better, with 56% satisfied with online media leadership. Fewer than a third of Americans (32%) believe online media will provide leadership in the future, but they are much more confident in the potential of Internet media to guide the U.S. in a better direction than they are in traditional news media (13%).

“The public’s sense of who will lead in the future is, sad to say, a painful reflection of the place that newspapers and other traditional media hold in American culture. Most Americans don’t think they provide much leadership now, nor will they lead us to a better future. They look to science, technology and entrepreneurs for that leadership,” said Nachison.

“This raises an old question that takes on new meaning as the world’s economy reorganizes around diminished returns: what’s the purpose of a news enterprise? Is it simply to produce, package and distribute data? Or is it more? Is there a purpose to the endeavor?

“We think there is, and we look to publishers and journalists to lead us to a better future. However they are configured, news enterprises must lead. And to lead they must change. That’s a call to action to improve performance and to raise the bar on expectations.”

Americans most likely to look online for breaking and daily news

Nearly half of Americans (46%) said they first turn to Internet news sites for information on breaking news about national and government issues and nearly as many (40%) said online news sites are where they get most of their news and information. These online sites far outpace traditional news sources, such as television (25%), radio (14%), and newspapers (12%), as a source of daily news and information. It comes as no surprise that younger Americans are most likely to favor online news sources, but only those age 65 and older are more likely to turn to television (36%) over the Internet (29%) to get their news.

Methodology: Zogby International was commissioned by iFOCOS to conduct an online survey of 2497 adults. A sampling of Zogby International’s online panel, which is representative of the adult population of the US, was invited to participate. Slight weights were added to region, party, age, race, religion, gender, education to more accurately reflect the population. The margin of error is +/- 2.0 percentage points. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.

For content, media inquiries and interviews, contact:
Beth Laing
iFOCOS
404-895-7406
blaing@ifocos.org

For methodology information, contact:
Stephanie DeVries
Zogby International
(315) 624-0200, Ext. 273
steph@zogby.com

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Andrew Nachison

Andrew Nachison

Co-founder, writer, editor, explorer and Chief We at We Media. Also: Journalist, husband, dad, music lover, hiker. I'd rather be outdoors.

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