2:39 p.m., Jan. 30, 2015--A national survey by the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication
(CPC) has found that a large majority of Americans say the news media
should not show images of beheadings by the organization ISIS.
Seventy percent of those surveyed opposed such media images, while 26
percent said the news media should show them. The telephone survey of
900 people was conducted in October, shortly after ISIS released videos
of several Western hostages being beheaded by the group.
This month, ISIS claimed to have beheaded a Japanese hostage.
Of those surveyed, 60 percent also said that social media companies
such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube should block access to images of
beheadings, while 36 percent said access should not be blocked.
“These results suggest Americans support self-censorship by the news
media when it come to these images,” said Paul Brewer, associate
director of the CPC, who supervised the study. “They also suggest
Americans support social media sites taking on active roles as
gatekeepers of what people should and shouldn’t see about public
The study found that support for self-censorship of beheading images
is lower among younger people and people who describe themselves as less
religious. Older and more religious people are more supportive of media
taking steps to prevent such images from being seen.
About the study
The National Agenda Opinion Project research was funded by the CPC
and the William P. Frank Foundation. It was supervised by Brewer, who
also is a professor in the departments of communication and of political science and international relations.
Telephone interviews were conducted with a representative sample of
900 adults. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of
weighted data is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.