Distrust in News Media Rises

Granted, it would be a man-bites-dog story if research suddenly showed that most Americans trust the news media. But a Gallup survey released this week finds distrust reaching what the polling firm termed “a record high.”

Respondents to the current survey (conducted in mid-September) were asked to say how much “trust and confidence” they have in the mass media “when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately and fairly.” Just 12 percent said they have “a great deal” of trust and confidence, with another 31 percent saying they have “a fair amount.” But 36 percent said they have “not very much” and 21 percent “none at all.”

At 57 percent, the sum of the “not very much” and “not at all” responses exceeds (by one percentage point) the previous high in Gallup’s polling on this topic, set in 2008. As recently as 2003, the great deal/fair amount tally surpassed the not very much/not at all vote, 54 percent to 46 percent.

Rubbing it in, Gallup’s analysis of the findings mentions that “Trust in the media is now slightly higher than the record-low trust in the legislative branch but lower than trust in the executive and judicial branches of government, even though trust in all three branches is down sharply this year.”

Part of the problem is political. A plurality of respondents (48 percent) said they believe the news media are “too liberal,” matching the sum of those who think the media are “too conservative” (15 percent) or “just about right” (33 percent). The other 4 percent had no opinion on this.

Given those numbers, it’s unsurprising that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to be distrustful of the media. While 59 percent of Democrat expressed a great deal/fair amount of trust and confidence, 32 percent of Republicans did so—along with 39 percent of independents.