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Record-low ratings for media confidence

Record-low ratings for media confidence

Americans’ confidence in two facets of the news media — newspapers and television news — has fallen to all-time low points. Just 16% of U.S. adults now say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers and 11% in television news. Both readings are down five percentage points since last year.

Gallup has tracked Americans’ confidence in newspapers since 1973 and television news since 1993 as part of its annual polling about major U.S. institutions. The latest readings are from a June 1-20 poll that saw declines in confidence ratings for 11 of the 16 institutions measured and no improvements for any.

Television news and newspapers rank nearly at the bottom of that list of institutions, with only Congress garnering less confidence from the public than TV news. While these two news institutions have never earned high confidence ratings, they have fallen in the rankings in recent years.

A majority of Americans have expressed confidence in newspapers only once — in 1979, when 51% did. But there is a wide margin between that and the second-highest readings of 39% in 1973 and 1990. The trend average for newspapers is 30%, well above the latest reading of 16%, which is the first time the measure has fallen below 20%. The percentage of Americans who say they have “very little” or volunteer that they have no confidence is currently the highest on record, at 46%.

Confidence in television news has never been higher than its initial 46% reading in 1993 and has averaged 27%, considerably higher than the current 11%. This is the fourth consecutive year that confidence in TV news is below 20%. And for just the second time in the trend, a majority of Americans, 53%, now say they have very little or no confidence at all in TV news.

Democrats’ Media Confidence Higher Than Other Partisans’ but Below Average

Republicans’ (5%) and independents’ (12%) confidence in newspapers is the lowest on record for these party groups, while Democrats’ (35%) has been lower in the past. Democrats’ confidence in newspapers rose to the 42% to 46% range during the Donald Trump administration but fell when President Joe Biden took office.

Confidence in newspapers among partisans today is far below the trend averages for Republicans (24%) and independents (28%) and slightly below average for Democrats (38%). Majorities of Republicans have registered little or no confidence in newspapers since 2017, while this is the first year that independents’ low confidence is at the majority level.

Confidence in TV news follows a similar pattern, with Democrats expressing higher confidence than Republicans and independents. However, Democrats’ and independents’ confidence ratings are down significantly from last year and are now at historical low points — 20% and 8%, respectively. Meanwhile, the 8% of Republicans with a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in television news is not statistically different from last year’s 6% record low.

As with partisans’ confidence in newspapers, the current ratings for television news are below the trend averages of 22% for Republicans, 25% for independents and 35% for Democrats. Majorities of Republicans and independents have expressed little or no confidence in TV news since 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Bottom Line

Multiple Gallup measures of Americans’ views of the news media show a growing distrust. Last fall, Gallup found near-record-low trust in the media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly, and few Americans rated newspaper and television reporters as highly ethical in Gallup’s annual honesty and ethics of professions poll in December. Although trust in the media in the U.S. has been scarce for many years, confidence ratings for newspapers and TV news have never been as low as they are now. Taken together, these data suggest that the media has a long way to go to win back the public’s confidence.


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