Gallup conducted a survey of Americans on their level of confidence in the benevolence and trustworthiness of American media.
The big takeaways from the study are that 23% of respondents “believe most national news organizations care about the best interests of their readers, viewers, and listeners.” A full 50% “feel most national news organizations intend to mislead, misinform, or persuade the public.”
Frankly, it’s amazing that, at this late date, given the endless parade of brazen lies on Russia’s non-existent meddling in the 2016 and 2020 elections, the debunked “safe and effective” mantra vis-à-vis COVID-19 shots, and a thousand other examples of duplicity — that apparently 50% of the country still puts any stock into the corporate media.
(Unfortunately, this study did not delineate between corporate media and independent media, which is a shame. I suspect the trust differential would be enormous.)
Breaking down the results along partisan lines, Gallup reports:
Media trust continues to vary along predictable lines. Democrats express significantly more trust in news organizations than Republicans. Among Republicans, trust in news continues to decline. New data show that more independents today report distrusting news than ever previously reported. Yet, trust in local news organizations remains higher than trust in national news.
The polling incorporated a novel element that may have been polled elsewhere but is not commonly included in any analysis of the public’s trust in media: emotional trust.
Emotional trust is more deeply rooted and is especially important to understand in the context of the news media. This study shows that emotional trust has a strong relationship to perceptions and behaviors that could harm the critical, mutually beneficial relationship between the health of the press and the health of U.S. democracy. The more emotional trust Americans have in news, the more likely they are to say news organizations balance staying in business and serving the public well.
What this suggests is that the average viewer or reader might not consume news and then make a judgment based solely on the facts presented (most don’t have a strong grasp on the facts; that would require hours of research). Instead, they make judgments based on whether they feel the source is being honest in its presentation of the subject, based purely on a subjective analysis.
People have a remarkable capacity to sniff out lies. “They can smell [the truth],” to quote Tucker Carlson.
Emotional judgments are often the only tool that we have, as we are forced out of practicality to rely on the analysis of the person or group presenting the news in terms of the fact. Most issues are incredibly complex and would take much too much time to fully analyze on own’s own — time most of us don’t have. The challenge is doubly difficult if the sources are confidential or anonymous — then the factor of trust in the journalist and the outlet becomes even more relevant.