Americans' Trust in Media Remains at Historical Low

by Rebecca Riffkin

Story Highlights

  • Four in 10 Americans trust the mass media
  • Ties 2014 and 2012 for the lowest trust level in Gallup's trend
  • Younger Americans less likely than older to trust the media

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Four in 10 Americans say they have "a great deal" or "a fair amount" of trust and confidence in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly. This ties the historical lows on this measure set in 2014 and 2012. Prior to 2004, slight majorities of Americans said they trusted the mass media, such as newspapers, TV and radio.

Trend: Americans' Trust in the Mass Media

Americans' confidence in the media has slowly eroded from a high of 55% in 1998 and 1999. Since 2007, the majority of Americans have had little or no trust in the mass media. Trust has typically dipped in election years, including 2004, 2008, 2012 and last year. However, 2015 is not a major election year.

This decline follows the same trajectory as Americans' confidence in many institutions and their declining trust in the federal government's ability to handle domestic and international problems over the same time period.

Americans' Trust in Mass Media

Trust in the Mass Media Has Fallen More Sharply Among Those Younger Than 50

Trust in the media continues to be significantly lower among Americans aged 18 to 49 than among those 50 and older, continuing a pattern evident since 2012. Prior to 2012, these groups' trust levels were more similar, with a few exceptions between 2005 and 2008.

Trend: Trust in Mass Media, by Age

Trust Among Democrats Remains Low, but Higher Than Among Republicans

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. In 2014, Gallup found that trust among Democrats fell to a 14-year low of 54%, and this figure is essentially unchanged at 55% this year. While more Democrats than Republicans continue to say they trust the media, the percentage of Republicans who report that they trust the mass media increased slightly this year, from 27% to 32%. This increase was offset, however, by a decrease in independents reporting trust, from 38% to 33%.

Trend: Trust in Mass Media, by Party

Bottom Line

Americans' trust level in the media has drifted downward over the past decade. The same forces behind the drop in trust in government more generally, as well confidence in many U.S. institutions, may also be at work with the media. But some of the loss in trust may have been self-inflicted. Major venerable news organizations have been caught making serious mistakes in the past several years, including the scandal involving former NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams in 2015 that some of his firsthand accounts of news events had been exaggerated or "misremembered."

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 9-13, 2015, with a random sample of 1,025 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. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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