In recent years, newspapers and TV newscasts have often reported on a lack of public confidence in political and business leaders. The targets of such reports might take solace in Gallup’s finding of a parallel trend: Consumers also have less confidence in newspapers and TV news.
In a report this month on its annual Confidence in Institutions survey, Gallup says just 25 percent of respondents express “a great deal” (9 percent) or “quite a lot” (16 percent) of confidence in newspapers. Twenty-two percent have that much confidence (11 percent “a great deal,” 11 percent “quite a lot”) in TV news. At the beginning of the 2000s, the great deal/quite a lot totals for each medium were about half again as high.
Since the audience for newspapers and news telecasts skews old, you might expect the survey’s older respondents to be the most trusting in those media. That’s not the case where newspapers are concerned, though.
While 24 percent of respondents 65 and older said they have a great deal/quite a lot of confidence in newspapers, 49 percent of the 18-29-year-olds — the age cohort for which newspaper reading is least common — said the same. (Sixteen percent of the 30-49-year-olds and 22 percent of the 50-64s put themselves in the great deal/quite a lot category.)
When it comes to confidence in TV news, the 65-plusers were the most likely to say they have a great deal/quite a lot, at 25 percent. But that put them just one percentage point ahead of the 18-29s and two points ahead of the 50-64s. The outliers were the 30-49s, with just 16 percent voicing a great deal/quite a lot of confidence in TV news.
There’s a predicable political divide in the findings. Democrats were almost twice as likely as Republicans (31 percent vs. 16 percent) to say they have a great deal/quite a lot of confidence in TV news. The gap was smaller, though still sizable, with respect to newspapers, as 33 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Republicans voiced a great deal/quite a lot of confidence in that medium.