According to the most recent Gallup survey:
Americans’ confidence in the media’s ability to report “the news fully, accurately, and fairly” has returned to its previous all-time low of 40%. Americans’ trust in mass media has generally been edging downward from higher levels in the late 1990s and the early 2000s.
A few data points worth noting:
- In the last 15 years, the percentage of Americans expressing a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the media was 55 percent. The drop in trust in the media has been trending downward since then — and is now 15 points below what it was in 1999.
- Trust among Democrats, who have traditionally expressed much higher levels of confidence in the media than Republicans have, dropped to a 14-year low of 54 percent in 2014.
- Republicans’ trust in the media is at 27 percent, one percentage point above their all-time low, while independents held steady at 38 percent — up one point from 37 percent in 2013.
- Democrats — with a majority of 52 percent — are most likely to think the media are just about right, while a mere 18 percent of Republicans feel this way about the news. More than seven in 10 Republicans say the media are too liberal.
- Americans are most likely to feel the news media are “too liberal” (44 percent) rather than “too conservative,” though this perceived liberal bias is now on the lower side of the trend. One in three (34 percent) say the media are “just about right” in terms of their coverage — down slightly from 37 percent last year.
- Nearly one in five Americans (19 percent) say the media are too conservative, which is still relatively low, but the highest such percentage since 2006. This is up six points from 2013 — the sharpest increase in the percentage of Americans who feel the news skews too far right since Gallup began asking the question in 2001.
Gallup’s bottom line:
Though a sizable percentage of Americans continue to have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media, Americans’ overall trust in the Fourth Estate continues to be significantly lower now than it was 10 to 15 years ago.
As the media expand into new domains of news reporting via social media networks and new mobile technology, Americans may be growing disenchanted with what they consider “mainstream” news as they seek out their own personal veins of getting information… the overarching pattern of the past decade has shown few signs of slowing the decline of faith in mass media as a whole.
The declining trust in mass media is part of a broader trend in which confidence is down among many institutions, but most especially among our political institutions — media, Congress, the Democratic and Republican parties, and the presidency.
Much of the loss of trust is well earned, and so the task of leaders in these institutions is to take steps that restores credibility in them. There’s no quick or easy way to do this; if it happens it will be the product of responsible conduct and moments of real excellence, done consistently and over an extended period of time. Here’s to hoping that 2015 will mark the beginning of this vital project. Because I’m one of those conservatives who believes that the corrosive skepticism and cynicism we’re witnessing is harmful to us, to our trust in one another and to our confidence in America and the future.