In what is unlikely to be any surprise to liberals and progressives, at least, Gallup is reporting that Americans’ Trust in Media Remains at Historical Low.
According to Gallup, “Four in 10 Americans say they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in the mass media” – newspapers, TV and radio – “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly.” As I said, nothing new: “This ties the historical lows on this measure set in 2014 and 2012.”
The rub is that, as pointed out, “Prior to 2004, slight majorities of Americans said they trusted the mass media, such as newspapers, TV and radio.” Trust peaked at 55% in 1998 and 1999. Trust in television news alone was at a dismal 23 percent in 2013.
Which means, of course, that 77 percent of you were thinking, “Yeah…not so much.”
Have people become more cynical, or is the media genuinely less trustworthy?
It is easy to blame the loss of the Fairness Doctrine, eliminated by the FCC, but that event took place in 1987, yet most Americans continued to trust the media up until 2004. Another event often pointed to by liberals, the Fox News channel, launched October 7, 1996.
Perhaps more significantly, in 2003, the Bush administration launched the illegal invasion of Iraq based on widely reported but soon to be proven false claims about WMDs, and the lies kept on a rolling.
Gallup tells us that “Trust has typically dipped in election years, including 2004, 2008, 2012 and last year,” but they point out that 2015 is not a major election year.
Though Gallup doesn’t analyze the reasons, we can point out here that elections begin earlier and earlier, and this year has featured prominently the on-and-off again feud between Donald Trump and Fox News. Trump has been turning viewers away from Fox News in a concerted effort – including delegitimizing an easy target, the most prominent woman on Fox News, Megyn Kelly – to personally control all news about himself.
This lack of trust is particularly prominent among the 18 to 49 demographic. And mistrust grows as the sample gets younger: A Harvard University Institute of Politics poll undertaken in 2014 of people between 18 and 29 found that only 11 percent thought the media could be trusted to do the right thing “all or most of the time.”
On the other hand, those 50+ are more likely to believe what they hear (45 to 36 percent compared to 18-49 year-olds). This is not surprising, and of course, Fox News owns the older demographics; Wikipedia tells us that “The median age for Fox News viewers is listed as 65+ as Nielsen does not give exact figures for ages over 65,” and the Fox News audience remains the oldest on television.
Perhaps unrelated (but perhaps not) is Pew Research Center telling us that “By almost every measure, fewer people tuned in to watch cable news in 2014.”
Pew Research Center found in 2014 that 47 percent of conservatives make Fox News their main news source. Ironically, and inexplicably, we are told now by Gallup that “For more than a decade, Republicans and independents have been significantly less likely than Democrats to trust the media. This pattern continues in the latest survey.”
This backs up Pew’s findings from last year, when they revealed that liberals “trust more than distrust” 28 of 36 news sources surveyed, while conservatives “distrust more than trust” 24 of the 36 news sources surveyed.
I would submit that the difference is explained by sheer rampant paranoia. Conservatives mostly watch and mostly trust Fox News and distrust all others. We have seen often enough the accusations that right-leaning MSNBC is the liberal “Fox” and that the right-leaning New York Times is some sort of “leftist propaganda” organization.
Yet the mainstream media is far more conservative-friendly than liberal, for the simple reason that corporations control the mainstream media just as they do the Republican Party. This didn’t stop conservatives from claiming the mainstream media stole the 2012 election for Democrats, simply because they actually reported accurately the crazy nonsense Republicans were spouting.
Evidently, all the Palinesque cries of “lamestream” media and “liberal media elite” – a term which has entered the “Conservapedia” – have paid off for Republicans, albeit in a rather weird way. And don’t expect things to get any better as we head into an election year.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.