Americans’ trust in news media hits record low, Gallup survey finds
Americans don’t care how transparent or even accurate news organizations are in their reporting — widespread doubt about the intentions of news organizations is inhibiting most of the country from placing trust in the media.
A new Gallup and Knight Foundation survey of 5,600 Americans released on Wednesday found that they increasingly feel that media organizations are reporting inaccurate information, despite efforts in recent years by mainstream publications to increase transparency and accountability in reporting through more on the record sourcing and explanation of reporting techniques.
Wednesday’s study focused specifically on the collapse of “emotional trust” with the national media among Americans. Fifty percent of survey respondents said, for example, they believed that national media intentionally intended to mislead Americans, a disturbing finding to the survey conductors.
“Many Americans are not solely skeptical of news today — they feel distrust on an emotional level, believing news organizations intend to mislead them and are indifferent to the social and political impact of their reporting,” the survey said. “Our analysis demonstrates that these indicators of emotional trust in news are, in fact, distinct from the opinion that news organizations are capable of delivering accurate and fair reporting.”
The findings made some crucial distinctions. Despite the hollowing out of local news, Gallup found that nearly half of the people surveyed said Americans had higher “emotional trust” in local news than national news. They survey found that Americans were twice as likely to have emotional trust in local organizations compared to national news outlets. Survey respondents also overwhelmingly said local news outlets care more about the impact of their reporting compared to their national counterparts.
Overall, though, the picture was still bleak for news organizations of all stripes.
Wednesday’s survey showed that just over a quarter of Americans have a favorable view of the news media, the lowest level since Gallup and Knight began tracking the topic in 2017. The highest levels of distrust continue to be among young people, self-described independents, Republicans, and even an increasing number of Democrats (the group historically most likely to have a favorable view of the news media).
Gallup’s polling shows that efforts made by national media newsrooms to reevaluate coverage after major events like the 2016 election and the murder of George Floyd by police in 2020 clearly have not made an impact on how the public views the news media. The finding that digital media has the lowest level or trust below television is also unfortunate for those of us in that particular business.
But it presents an opportunity for local newsrooms and independent local journalists, and suggests that being embedded in the community continues to be the best way to earn public trust. Gallup’s survey found that more than half of Americans said that local news organizations could be relied on for accurate information, a significant bump compared to national news organizations.