Gallup Poll: U.S. Distrust in Media Hits New High
Americans’ distrust in the media hit a new high this year, with 60% saying they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. Distrust is up from the past few years, when Americans were already more negative about the media than they had been in years prior to 2004.
I personally think some of this is due to a)the decline in fact-based journalism as the key goal of journalism b)the rise of ideological broadcast channels where people go to get the news from like-minded partisans who say what they already agree with on issues before the viewers even hear a taken on an issue c)the frenzied competition with traditional news media as they try to keep pace with and adjust to new media which more often resembles op-ed pages or letters to the editor or partisan talk radio, d)high profile errors by news media which are then magnified or twisted from mistakes by news providers to nefarious plots to push an agenda (sometimes a mistake is just that — a mistake).
The record distrust in the media, based on a survey conducted Sept. 6-9, 2012, also means that negativity toward the media is at an all-time high for a presidential election year. This reflects the continuation of a pattern in which negativity increases every election year compared with the year prior. The current gap between negative and positive views — 20 percentage points — is by far the highest Gallup has recorded since it began regularly asking the question in the 1990s. Trust in the media was much higher, and more positive than negative, in the years prior to 2004 — as high as 72% when Gallup asked this question three times in the 1970s.
This year’s decline in media trust is driven by independents and Republicans. The 31% and 26%, respectively, who express a great deal or fair amount of trust are record lows and are down significantly from last year. Republicans’ level of trust this year is similar to what they expressed in the fall of 2008, implying that they are especially critical of election coverage.
Independents are sharply more negative compared with 2008, suggesting the group that is most closely divided between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney is quite dissatisfied with its ability to get fair and accurate news coverage of this election.
More broadly, Republicans continue to express the least trust in the media, while Democrats express the most. Independents’ trust fell below the majority level in 2004 and has continued to steadily decline.
There are more details and then Gallup gives the implications:
Americans are clearly down on the news media this election year, with a record-high six in 10 expressing little or no trust in the mass media’s ability to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. This likely reflects the continuation of the trend seen in recent years, combined with the increased negativity toward the media that election years tend to bring. This is particularly consequential at a time when Americans need to rely on the media to learn about the platforms and perspectives of the two candidates vying to lead the country for the next four years.
The lower level of interest in news about national politics during this election year may also reflect the level of interest in the presidential election specifically. This survey was conducted immediately after the conclusion of both political conventions and thus may indicate the level of attention paid to those events in particular. Since this survey was conducted, Democrats’ enthusiasm about voting has swelled nationally and in swing states.
On a broad level, Americans’ high level of distrust in the media poses a challenge to democracy and to creating a fully engaged citizenry. Media sources must clearly do more to earn the trust of Americans, the majority of whom see the media as biased one way or the other. At the same time, there is an opportunity for others outside the “mass media” to serve as information sources that Americans do trust.