Monday 20th August 2018

New study shows Americans’ trust in media in decline, largest proportion believes it’s just commentary and opinion

42 percent of Americans, the largest proportion, believe news is just commentary and opinion. 44 percent, again the largest proportion, state their trust in media sources has decreased in the last year.
Jason Smith
by on 12th June 2018

44 percent of Americans say their trust in mainstream media sources has decreased in the last year, according to a new a survey of 2,019 American adults by the Media Insight Project.

Only 17 percent of Americans declare their trust in mainstream media has increased, while 39 percent state their trust has neither increased nor decreased.

On whether the news media is headed in the correct direction, 56 percent say it’s not, while 42 percent say it is.

The survey aggregated perspectives from both journalists and the public on issues including how journalism should be practiced, how fake news is defined, basic terminology and political affiliations.

A majority of Americans (53 percent) believe the news has become too ideological, with 37 percent stating it’s too liberal and 16 percent stating it’s too conservative.

A majority of Republicans (53 percent) also claim news reports are fairly inaccurate, while 71 percent of Democrats claim they are fairly accurate.

There’s also significant polarization on how Americans view journalists as a group, with 60 percent of Democrats holding a positive perspective, while only 35 percent and 19 percent of Independents and Republicans hold the same view.

The largest proportion of Americans also believes the news feels mostly like commentary and opinion.

While 63 percent of Americans believe the news should be “facts with some background and analysis,” only 33 percent believe that’s what it actually is, with 42 percent stating it’s mostly just commentary and opinion.

Skepticism of news media is most pronounced in the youngest age demographics, with 53 percent of 18-29 year olds claiming news sources are fairly inaccurate and they have to check multiple sources to verify information. This perspective was shared by 43 percent of 30-44 year olds, 37 percent of 45-59 year olds and 31 percent of those aged 60 or over.

Americans seem to have divergent interpretations on what constitutes “fake news,” with 71 percent defining it as “made up stories from news outlets that don’t exist,” 63 percent as “media conspiracies” and 62 percent as “journalists from real news organizations making stuff up.”

43 percent define it as news from real news organizations that’s unfair or sloppy.

There’s also some divergence on the definition of fake news dependent on whether the respondent approves or disapproves of President Trump, with 52 percent of those who approve declaring “unfair or sloppy” news constitutes “fake news” and 38 percent of those who disapprove declaring likewise.

While 41 percent of Americans believe the news media neither hurts nor protects democracy, 30 percent believe it hurts democracy while 28 percent believe it protects democracy.

On specific issues, 23 percent believe issues around race and ethnicity are covered while 33 percent believe they are covered slightly or not at all accurately.