World

Quality and Integrity of World’s Media Questioned

by Cynthia English

Residents of leading nations express relatively low confidence

WASHINGTON D.C. -- In 2005 and 2006, Gallup asked residents of 128 countries whether they have confidence in the quality and integrity of their media -- the news isn't good: In half the countries surveyed, less than a majority of residents expressed confidence, and confidence among residents in many of the world's leading nations is relatively low. Less than a third of Russians (29%) and Americans (32%) expressed confidence in the quality and integrity of the media, as did 35% of Japanese, 38% of Britons and the French, and 41% of Germans. In Canada, the media fared slightly better, with 56% of respondents expressing confidence.

Regionally, residents in Central and South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia were generally likely to express confidence in the quality and integrity of media in their countries. Fewer people in the Middle East and North Africa region tended to express confidence in their media.

Gallup's data are even more interesting when compared with the 2007 Global Press Freedom rankings from Freedom House, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. Freedom House used a variety of sources to measure freedom of the press around the world and then scored the press in that country as "not free", "partly free", or "free." Gallup finds that among the countries whose press Freedom House considers "free", a median of 47% reported they have confidence in the quality and integrity of the media. In countries with "partly free" or "not free" press, this median rises to 56% and 50%, respectively.

Comparing country by country, there are also clear differences between citizens' confidence in the quality and integrity of their media and Freedom House's measures of press freedom in that nation. Although many citizens of a country may express confidence in the quality and integrity of their media, Freedom House may rate press freedom in that country as relatively limited. In the case of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia, where confidence in the media is relatively low, according to Gallup's measures, all except Russia is considered "free" and ranks within the top 40 countries in Freedom House's Global Press Freedom rankings. In other nations such as Rwanda, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore, where at least 7 in 10 citizens expressed confidence, Freedom House ranks them toward the bottom of the list and classifies their media as "not free."

Perceived Quality of Media Versus Freedom of the Press

Confidence in the quality and integrity of national media varies widely around the world. Nonetheless, some regional generalizations can be made. In Southeast Asia, for example, confidence in the media is relatively high: across eight countries, the regional median is 64%. However, in the Philippines, where 75% of respondents said they trust their media, the press is regarded as only "partly free" by Freedom House and the country ranks 100th out of 195 countries, which is the highest ranking for any Southeast Asian country Gallup surveyed.

In 15 of the 23 countries surveyed in Central and South America and the Caribbean, majorities said they have confidence in the media. The regional median is 55%.Venezuela and Cuba are the only two countries in this region whose press is considered "not free" by Freedom House, and earn freedom rankings of 161st and 191st, respectively. In each of these countries, about half of respondents said they have confidence in the quality and integrity of their country's media. Interestingly, sentiment is similar in Jamaica (53% expressed confidence), which ranks 15th on Freedom House's list.

The regional picture is similar in Africa, where the median for confidence in the media is 54%. Of the African countries surveyed, Rwandans are most likely to express confidence, with 86% saying they trust the quality and integrity of their media. However, the Rwandan press is considered "not free" by Freedom House and ranks 181st out of 195 countries.

Only 14% of Ethiopians and 22% of Chadians said they have confidence in the media in their countries. Despite the low confidence among Ethiopians, the median confidence for countries in East Africa (65%) was higher than other regional medians in Africa.

In the North Africa and Middle East region, the regional median for expressed confidence in the quality and integrity of the media is 41%. However, the range is significant -- 77% of respondents from the United Arab Emirates and only 25% from Turkey express confidence in their country's media. Israel is the only country in the region whose press Freedom House considers "free."

In the developed countries and territories of Asia, a regional median of only 38% expressed confidence in national media. Despite ranking 33rd in the world for press freedom, according to Freedom House, only 14% of Taiwanese express confidence in the quality and integrity of their media. South Korea ranks 66th worldwide, but only one in four respondents expressed confidence in their country's media. In the region, confidence in national media is highest in Singapore (69% confident), whose press is considered "not free" and who earns the lowest press freedom ranking (154th) of the countries Gallup surveyed in this region.

In Europe, a regional median of 42% report confidence in the media, while a regional median of 45% lack confidence. Sixty-five percent of Irish residents report they have confidence in their national media, which is among the highest percentages in Europe. Slovakians, Russians, and Hungarians, on the other hand, report the least confidence, with about 3 in 10 saying they trust the media's quality and integrity. Despite this, Hungary ranks well above many European countries with a press freedom ranking of 39th worldwide.

Taken together, the results from Gallup Polls conducted in 128 countries worldwide and Freedom House's Global Press Freedom rankings paint a complicated picture of the media around the globe. While a country's press may be considered free, it may not be widely respected by the residents who live there. Further, media considered to have relatively limited press freedom may have the support of their people. These data suggest both measures, as well as others, and should be considered by those seeking to assess and improve media worldwide.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with roughly 1,000 adults aged 15 and older, in 128 countries, conducted throughout 2005 and 2006. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Note: Freedom House does not provide separate rankings for Puerto Rico or Kosovo; they were not included in the comparison rankings above.

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