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Democrats and Republicans are the most divided they've ever been on whether news organizations' criticism of political leaders keeps them from doing things they shouldn't or keeps them from doing their job, a new Pew Research poll found.

Expand chart
Data: Pew Research Center; Note: From 1985-2013 polls were conducted over the phone. In 2016 and 2017 the polls were conducted online by the American Trends Panel; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Battle lines: Nearly 90 percent of Democrats say news criticism keeps political leaders in check while roughly 40 percent of Republicans feel the same — that's nearly a 50 percent gap. The results are a significant shift from the early months of 2016 during the presidential primary, when Democrats (74%) and Republicans (77%) nearly agreed on the watchdog role the media played.

Why it matters: The findings suggest Americans' view of the media's purpose depends on how it benefits their party. The last time the gap was this wide was in 2005, when Republicans also controlled The White House and both houses in Congress.

What we're watching: Pew notes that this division extends to Americans' behaviors around news. Other recent Pew studies show that attitudes and the understanding of the media have shifted due to the rise of smartphones and social media.

Go deeper

Senate Democrats unveil new income tax for billionaires

Sen. Ron Wyden. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Democrats on Wednesday released a billionaires' tax proposal, designed to help support President Biden's social spending and climate change legislation.

Why it matters: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the Billionaires Income Tax would raise "hundreds of billions of dollars" and would affect approximately 700 taxpayers who have more than $1 billion in assets or incomes of over $100 million a year.

The startup that wants to disrupt big internet providers

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A new startup backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case and Laurene Powell Jobs wants to break up broadband monopolies across the country.

Why it matters: Internet access has been crucial during the pandemic, but it's not ubiquitous, and it can be both slow and unaffordable in swaths of the country.

3 hours ago - World

Top general: China's hypersonic missile test "very close" to a "Sputnik moment"

Gen. Mark Milley. Photo: Rod Lamkey-Pool/Getty Images

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned Wednesday that China's test of a hypersonic missile is "very concerning" and "very close" to the kind of "Sputnik moment" that triggered the Space Race during the Cold War.

Why it matters: The comments by America's top uniformed general underscore the depths of U.S. concerns about China's rapid military expansion and development of advanced weaponry.