Is Media Trust at an All-Time Low?

Keroes Heatherby Heather Keroes

A Gallup poll reports that Americans’ confidence in the media’s ability to report “the news fully, accurately and fairly” has returned to an all-time low last seen in 2004.  Gallup states that it’s typical for trust in media to drop during an election year, but the level of trust has been on a steady decline over the last few years.


Without delving too much into politics and its impact on sentiment, I’m more curious about news mediums and how Gallup and its polled parties categorize mass media.  Defined as “newspapers, TV and radio” for the poll, I wonder how the results may have been different if online and social sources were included in the mix.  Would they have been better, seeing that younger generations turn to the Internet for news?  Would they have been worse, given the reporting mishaps that are oh so common when media try to scoop one another in the beat of one tweet (also taking into account the questionable qualifications of some online sources)?

The poll has been conducted annually since 1997 and shows that the highest trust rating was 55 percent in 1999.  The level of confidence is now at 40 percent.  Compared to other Gallup polls, especially those of the political variety, a 40 percent confidence level isn’t too shabby.  The continued decline, however, may be a real issue, but I have a hard time saying that trust in media is deteriorating when the perceived definition of media has changed.  My question for Gallup is this:  What are you really measuring?

In its “Bottom Line” on the poll, Gallup infers that as “the media expand into new domains of news reporting via social media networks and new mobile technology, Americans may be growing disenchanted with what they consider mainstream news as they seek out their own personal veins of getting information.”  While on the right track, Gallup misses the mark in that “mainstream news” also makes use of social media and mobile technology.  When does “new” media simply become media?

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