Trust in News Media Rebounds Somewhat This Year

by Joseph Carroll

Plurality of Americans still describe news media as too liberal

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Half of Americans say they trust the mass media when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately, and fairly, according to Gallup's annual Governance survey. Trust and confidence in the news media is up significantly since last year, but it is still slightly lower than what Gallup has found in recent years. The most common view of the political leanings of the news media is that they are too liberal -- close to half of Americans say this -- followed by more than a third who say they are about right. The smallest number describes the news media as too conservative. Republicans are much less likely than Democrats to express confidence in the media, but are much more likely to perceive bias in the news media, with most Republicans saying they are too liberal.

Trust in Media Up This Year, Still Lower Than in Recent Years

The poll, conducted Sep. 12-15, finds that half of Americans say they have a great deal (13%) or fair amount (37%) of trust and confidence in the mass media, while the other half say they do not have very much trust (37%) or none at all (12%). The current results show an increase in the public's trust and confidence in the media since last year, but the results are still slightly lower that what Gallup has recorded in recent years.

When Gallup first asked this question in 1972, trust and confidence in the mass media was much higher than it is today, with 68% Americans expressing confidence in 1972; the high point on this measure came in 1976, when 72% of respondents said they had a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the media.

By 1997, when Gallup resurrected the question, this sentiment had declined substantially. Still, a majority of Americans, 53%, expressed confidence in the media. These results showed only modest variations between 1997 and 2003 before dropping substantially to 44% last year, matching the low point of the trend. Confidence in the media has rebounded somewhat this year, but still remains below recent levels.

A Plurality of Americans Say News Media Are Too Liberal

When asked about the news media's political slant, Americans are much more likely to say they are too liberal (46%) than they are to say they are about right (37%) or too conservative (16%).

Those views are consistent with what Gallup has measured since 2001. The percentage of Americans saying the news media are too liberal has ranged between 45% and 48%, and has always been the plurality response. There has been a slight increase in the public's sentiment that the media are too conservative, from 11% in 2001 to 16% today.

Republicans and Democrats Differ in Views of News Media

These two measures show substantial differences between Republicans and Democrats.

About 3 in 10 Republicans (31%) say they have a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the media, while the vast majority of Republicans (69%) say they have very little or no trust in the media. The results are essentially opposite among Democrats, with 70% expressing a great deal or fair amount confidence in the media and 30% very little or no confidence.

Eight in 10 Republicans (81%) say the news media are too liberal, while 15% say they are about right, and just 3% say they are too conservative. Among Democrats, a majority (57%) says the news media are just about right, while the rest are almost equally divided in their description of the news media as too liberal (18%) and too conservative (23%).

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 921 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Sep. 12-15, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects 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.

17. In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the mass media -- such as newspapers, T.V. and radio -- when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately, and fairly -- a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?

Great
deal

Fair
amount

Not very
much

None
at all

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

13

37

37

12

1

2004 Sep 13-15

9

35

39

16

1

2003 Sep 8-10

14

40

35

11

*

2002 Sep 5-8

10

44

35

11

*

2001 Sep 7-10

12

41

33

14

*

2000 Jul 6-9

12

39

37

12

*

1999 Feb 4-8

11

44

34

11

*

1998 Dec 28-29

11

44

35

9

1

1997 May 30-Jun 1

10

43

31

15

1

1976 Jun

18

54

22

4

2

1974 Apr

21

48

21

8

2

1972 May

18

50

24

6

2

* = Less than 0.5%

32. In general, do you think the news media is -- [ROTATED: too liberal, just about right, or too conservative]?

Too
liberal

Just
about right

Too
conservative

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

46

37

16

1

2004 Sep 13-15

48

33

15

4

2003 Sep 8-10

45

39

14

2

2003 Feb 17-19

45

36

15

4

2002 Sep 5-8

47

37

13

3

2001 Sep 7-10

45

40

11

4

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