A Gallup Poll released this week shows the largest decline in trust in the media since the organization started asking the public’s opinion on the subject in 1972. In a survey conducted among people over 18 years old, across 50 states, only 32 percent said they trust the media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly.”
Only 14 percent of Republicans trust the media, down from 32 percent in 2015. According to the poll, the steep decline in trust among Republicans has been influenced by Republican leaders, conservative pundits and GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, who continually claims the media is biased toward his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Democrats (at 51 percent, compared with 55 percent in 2015) and independents (30 percent versus 33 percent last year) have a little more faith in the Fourth Estate than Republicans.
Young and old alike are distrustful. For the 18-to-49 age group, only 26 percent say they have a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the media, down 10 percent from 2015. For those 50 and older, it’s 38 percent, down 7 percentage points from 2015.
The divisive presidential election this year may be corroding Americans’ trust and confidence in the media, particularly among Republicans who may believe the “mainstream media” are too hyperfocused on every controversial statement or policy proposal from Trump while devoting far less attention to controversies surrounding the Clinton campaign. However, the slide in media trust has been happening for the past decade. Before 2004, it was common for a majority of Americans to profess at least some trust in the mass media, but since then, less than half of Americans feel that way. Now, only about a third of the U.S. has any trust in the Fourth Estate, a stunning development for an institution designed to inform the public.
With the explosion of the mass media in recent years, especially the prevalence of blogs, vlogs and social media, perhaps Americans decry lower standards for journalism. When opinion-driven writing becomes something like the norm, Americans may be wary of placing trust on the work of media institutions that have less rigorous reporting criteria than in the past. On the other hand, as blogs and social media “mature,” they may improve in the American public’s eyes. This could, in turn, elevate Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media as a whole.
Since 1972, the apex of trust in media by the general public was 76 percent in 1976.
—Posted by Donald Kaufman
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