Who Trusts the Media?

Americans give a big thumbs-down when it comes to having “trust and confidence” in mass media – TV, radio and newspapers.

MediaAre Americans’ attitudes about the press becoming more negative over time? If the latest survey figures on media trust are any guide, the answer is a pretty stark “yes.”

According to a recent Gallup field survey of ~1,025 American citizens aged 18 or over, trust and confidence in the mass media in the United States has reached a new low.

Today, just ~40% of respondents report that they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of confidence that newspapers, TV and radio report the news “fully, accurately and fairly.”

What’s more, trust levels have been on a downward trajectory ever since the late 1990s, when Gallup began surveying Americans’ attitudes on an annual basis.

Here’s what the trend looks like in the “off-election” years:

  • 1999: ~55% have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in mass media (TV/radio/newspapers)
  • 2003: ~54%
  • 2005: ~50%
  • 2007: ~47%
  • 2009: ~46%
  • 2011: ~44%
  • 2013: ~44%
  • 2015: ~40%

Moreover, the notion that young people might be more inclined to trust the media isn’t borne out in the Gallup survey results. The trust of Americans age 18-49 has dropped from 53% in 2005 to only 36% now.

Contrast this with older Americans (age 50 or older): 45% of them reported that they had trust and confidence in mass media in 2005, and today that trust level is … still 45%:

Media trust by age

Giving further credence to the oft-stated claim that American mass media are slanted towards one political party, ~55% of self-identified Democrats express trust in the media, compared to just 32% of Republicans and 33% of independents.

Gallup can’t resist editorializing a bit about its most recent media trust figures:

“Americans’ trust level in the media has drifted downward over the past decade, but some of the loss in trust may have been self-inflicted, as major venerable news organizations have been caught making serious mistakes in the past several years.”

Additional information on the Gallup survey can be accessed here.