Survey: Less Than Half of Americans Trust the Mass Media

By Michael W. Chapman | October 15, 2018 | 4:32 PM EDT

(Getty Images.) 

(CNSNews.com) -- An updated survey shows that only 45% of Americans have a "great deal/fair amount" of trust in the mass media, which is up from 32% trust in 2016. In addition, the poll shows that trust in the media has fallen dramatically amoung younger people since 2005, people 18 to 29 years old and 30 to 49 years old.

One of the major factors in the decline of trust in the media was Dan Rather's false reporting in 2004 about George W. Bush's military service, according to Gallup, which conducted the survey.

In the updated poll, Gallup asked, "In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the mass media -- such as newspapers, TV and radio -- and when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately and fairly -- a great deal, a fair amount, not very much or none at all?" 

(Gallup.) 

Forty-five percent answered a "great deal/fair amount." In 2016 that number was 32% and in 2012 it was 40%. Back in the early 1970s between 68% and 72% of Americans had a "great deal/fair amount" of trust in the mass media, according to Gallup. 

"When Gallup first asked Americans to evaluate the mass media in a 1972 survey, 68% said they trusted it a great deal or a fair amount," reported the survey firm. "In 1974 and 1976 surveys, trust remained near 70%."

"Two decades later, the next time Gallup asked the question, trust in the media had fallen to 53%," said Gallup.   "It held at about that level through 2003, before falling to 44% in 2004 amid controversy over inaccurate reporting by Dan Rather of CBS News about George W. Bush's military service."

"CBS later issued an apology for the report," said Gallup. "Although media trust rebounded slightly to 50% a year later, it has yet to return to the majority level."

In political terms, Democrats have far greater trust in the media than Republicans and Independents. The survey showed that 76% of Democrats in 2018 have a "great deal/fair amount of trust and confidence" in the mass media but only 21% of Republicans do. For Independents, the trust-number is 42%. 

(YouTube)

The Democrats' trust has surged from 51% in 2016. Only 14% of Republicans trusted the media in 2016.

"President Donald Trump's attacks on the 'mainstream media' are likely a factor in the increasingly polarized views of the media," said the survey firm.  "Republicans agree with his assertions that the media unfairly covers his administration, while Democrats may see the media as the institution primarily checking the president's power."

When viewed by age, trust in the media among people 18-29 years old has fallen from 56% in 2005 to 38% in 2018, a decline of 18 percentage points. For people 30-38 years old, the trust factor fell from 50% in 2005 to 40% in 2018. It also declined 5 percentage points for people 50-64 years old (to 44%), and fell 6 percentage points for people 65+ years old (48%).

"Americans' trust in the media has recovered somewhat since bottoming out two years ago, particularly among Democrats, but overall trust remains below where it was around the turn of the century," reported Gallup. "Trust in the media may be affected by the larger trends affecting confidence in many major U.S. institutions, which began to decline in 2005."

"Attitudes toward the media have also become politicized in recent years, in much the same way attitudes toward labor unions have," said Gallup. "Lastly, generational factors appear to be at play, with today's young adults less trusting of the media than their older peers."

(Gallup.)

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Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman