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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.

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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

Trump political team disavows "Patriot Party" groups

Marine One carries President Trump away from the White House on Inauguration Day. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Donald Trump's still-active presidential campaign committee officially disavowed political groups affiliated with the nascent "Patriot Party" on Monday.

Why it matters: Trump briefly floated the possibility of creating a new political party to compete with the GOP — with him at the helm. But others have formed their own "Patriot Party" entities during the past week, and Trump's team wants to make clear it has nothing to do with them.

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to alter election results

Donald and Melania Trump exit Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Jan. 20. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or former DOJ officials "engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome" of the 2020 election, the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.