Americans' Confidence in News Media Remains Low
Politics

Americans' Confidence in News Media Remains Low

by Andrew Dugan

Across newspapers, TV, and Internet, confidence no higher than 22%

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' faith in each of three major news media platforms -- television news, newspapers, and news on the Internet -- is at or tied with record lows in Gallup's long-standing confidence in institutions trend. This continues a decades-long decline in the share of Americans saying they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in newspapers or TV news, while trust in Internet news remains low since the one prior measure in 1999.

news media

These results are from a Gallup poll conducted June 5-8.The three major sources of news ranked in the bottom third of 17 different U.S. institutions measured in the poll.

Confidence in newspapers has declined by more than half since its 1979 peak of 51%, while TV news has seen confidence ebb from its high of 46% in 1993, the first year that Gallup asked this question. Gallup's only previous measure of Internet news was in 1999, when confidence was 21%, little different from today.

Conservatives' Confidence in Newspapers Tied at 10-Year Low

Slightly less than one-fifth of self-identified conservatives (15%) say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in newspapers, tied with the 10-year low. In the past decade, the percentage of conservatives expressing a strong degree of confidence in newspapers has fallen by nearly half. Liberals are far more likely than conservatives -- or than the adult population in general -- to be confident in newspapers (34%). Nearly a quarter of moderates (24%), meanwhile, have confidence in newspapers.

following of newspapers, by ideology

While liberals are more likely to have confidence in newspapers than conservatives, conservatives are slightly more likely to express confidence in TV news (19%) than liberals (15%). For liberals, this 2014 reading represents an 11-percentage-point decline from 2013.

following of tv, by ideology

Over the past year, the Internet has seen the acceleration of website-only news sources that focus on empirical, data-driven analysis, including Ezra Klein's Vox website or the relaunching of Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight site. But this quantitative approach to telling the news has not, in of itself, persuaded the major ideologies to express strong confidence in news from the Internet. More than a fifth of liberals (22%) and moderates (22%) say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in news from the Internet, while slightly fewer conservatives (17%) say this.

Bottom Line

The field of news media has changed dramatically since Gallup first began measuring the confidence the public held in newspapers or TV news decades ago. The circulation of newspapers continues to shrink to the point that University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for the Digital Future estimates that most print newspapers will not exist in five years. Television news continues to see a proliferation of new cable news networks, including the launch of Al-Jazeera America in August 2013. Meanwhile, news from the Internet now figures prominently in the average American's news diet, whereas not so long ago this mode did not even exist.

Amid this rapid change, Americans hold all news media platforms in low confidence. How these platforms can restore confidence with the American public is not clear, especially as editorial standards change and most outlets lack the broad reach once available to major newspapers and broadcasters.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 5-8, 2014, with a random sample of 1,027 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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