Gallup: Americans really distrust the media

posted at 9:30 am on September 29, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

In a way, this is somewhat similar to polling job approval for Congress.  Low numbers are the New Normal, and we elect people to that institution.  The media, on the other hand, gets plenty of well-deserved criticism for its bias and other failures, and it’s still approaching its apex, according to Gallup:

For the fourth straight year, the majority of Americans say they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. The 57% now saying this is a record high by one percentage point. …

Trust in the media is now slightly higher than the record-low trust in the legislative branch but lower than trust in the executive and judicial branches of government, even though trust in all three branches is down sharply this year. These findings also further confirm a separate Gallup poll that found little confidence in newspapers and television specifically.

Nearly half of Americans (48%) say the media are too liberal, tying the high end of the narrow 44% to 48% range recorded over the past decade. One-third say the media are just about right while 15% say they are too conservative. Overall, perceptions of bias have remained quite steady over this tumultuous period of change for the media, marked by the growth of cable and Internet news sources. Americans’ views now are in fact identical to those in 2004, despite the many changes in the industry since then.

Actually, though, this is a fairly new phenomenon.  The chart shows that the media hit a tipping point on trust at a certain point in time:

Before late 2004, a majority of Americans had a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media.  After that point in late 2004, the dynamic flipped, with a majority since having little or no trust in the media’s ability to report fairly.  What happened?  The CBS attempt to smear George W. Bush with the phony Texas Air National Guard memos.  That episode made clear the political tilt and the situational ethics of the “layers of editors and fact-checkers” at CBS, providing a clear basis for the always-present suspicion that the national news media occasionally cooked a story for their own political purposes.

Andrew Malcolm, tongue firmly in cheek, tries to dispute these findings in his most sarcastic manner:

Apparently, many Americans strongly suspect that a human bias creeps into media coverage, slanting the news in a favorable way toward people or causes that its biased members secretly appreciate.

And, additionally, that these same humanly-biased news media members portray people and causes that they don’t favor in a, well, unfavorable light.

Ridiculous! If that was the case, these evil-doing media types would focus superficially on the hair or clothing styles and costs of one female political candidate without noting the hair plugs and boring blue everyday neckties of her male opponent.

If the media was really biased, it would ask, say, a meaningless trick geography question of one candidate, while interrogating another on how he handles such a busy travel schedule and still manages to look so good and be a great dad.

It would seize on some goofy thing like a “mis-spilled” word or an out-of-context statement about inventing the Internet or seeing Russia from an impossible distance.

And it would repeat the goofy statement again and again and again and again. Until it became an intimate part of national family life, like one of those tired jokes that everyone’s father has told 1,872 times.

Or media outlets would do something like shriek about lobbyist donations to a leader of one political party — without noting that at least eighteen of the other party took much more in the same kind of donations, including the other party’s top two leaders, who took in at least twice as much as the subject of the media outlet’s exposé.  The media outlet could also run a front-page, multicolumn story about allegations that a presidential candidate had an inappropriate personal relationship with a female lobbyist based on testimony from two low-level flunkies who described themselves as “disgruntled,” and then later claim that they didn’t mean it to be interpreted as a sexual affair.  They could also attempt to extort that same campaign for inside information by threatening them with negative coverage.

You know, if the national media were biased in any way.


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It’s easier to be biased and to tell people what to think, than to actually report.

Reporting = work.

Opinion pieces masquerading as journalism can be tossed off in a few minutes.

And then the lazy “reporter” can congratulate themselves on “making a difference” when they really didn’t do a damn thing.

NoDonkey on September 29, 2010 at 9:35 AM

Thanks to Newsbusters for all their hard work.

fossten on September 29, 2010 at 9:36 AM

Wow..I’m shocked!

Its only taken two decades for the public to wake up to the fact that the MSM hasn’t been doing the job of keeping the political playing field level and honest, instead of being an active participant in the outcome.

I am surprised that a poll would actually publish these results….go figger.

belad on September 29, 2010 at 9:37 AM

Nearly half of Americans (48%) say the media are too liberal, tying the high end of the narrow 44% to 48% range recorded over the past decade. One-third say the media are just about right while 15% say they are too conservative.

This country is populated with an inordinate amount of dunces.

darwin-t on September 29, 2010 at 9:37 AM

Americans must be getting sick of seeing the MSM give tongue-baths to PBHO at every opportunity, it doesn’t jive with the corrosion happening out in the real world.

Boggles my mind to think just how bad it would be for the man if the media weren’t so biased in his favor; PBHO probably would have pulled a Nixon by now and retired off somewhere.

Bishop on September 29, 2010 at 9:39 AM

Dan Rather killed the radio star, er umm, I mean the “News” industry.

abobo on September 29, 2010 at 9:40 AM

Welcome to real world gallup….

cmsinaz on September 29, 2010 at 9:40 AM

It’s easier to be biased and to tell people what to think, than to actually report.

Reporting = work.

Opinion pieces masquerading as journalism can be tossed off in a few minutes.

And then the lazy “reporter” can congratulate themselves on “making a difference” when they really didn’t do a damn thing.

NoDonkey on September 29, 2010 at 9:35 AM

Yeah, that’s another issue plaguing journalism right now. It’s not just the ideological slant. It’s the laziness. I hardly ever see anyone challenge Democrats when they offer up platitudes and talking points. If these reporters are gonna just sit there and allow their newspapers and TV shows to be used as a DNC infomercial, nobody’s gonna bother reading or tuning in anymore. I don’t know if they realize that they’re rendering themselves irrelevant.

Doughboy on September 29, 2010 at 9:41 AM

This country is populated with an inordinate amount of dunces.

darwin-t on September 29, 2010 at 9:37 AM

This country is populated gubmint educated with an inordinate amount of dunces.

FIFY!

belad on September 29, 2010 at 9:42 AM

15% say they are too conservative.

These are the 15% of people running around in “Faux News” T-shirts and obscessing about Bill O’Riley and Sarah Palin.

crazy_legs on September 29, 2010 at 9:42 AM

I CAN SEE NOVEMBER FROM MY HOUSE!

Haiku Guy on September 29, 2010 at 9:42 AM

It would be great if there were one channel that was completely non-biased and reported the news. CNN should really give it a try; Hannity is just unwatchable.

TimTebowSavesAmerica on September 29, 2010 at 9:42 AM

Fossten, 2nd that!

cmsinaz on September 29, 2010 at 9:43 AM

Let’s call this like it is . . . the so called “media” is nothing less than the propaganda arm of the Obama regime or whatever left wing regime may be in power. The media critics need to muster up some guts and speak the truth instead of mincing words and flopping around like a fish out of water.

rplat on September 29, 2010 at 9:44 AM

All I can say is THANK GOD AL GORE INVENTED THE INTERNET!

txhsmom on September 29, 2010 at 9:44 AM

This cartoon pretty much summed it up for me.

aunursa on September 29, 2010 at 9:46 AM

The companies that own these news outlets just are not into profit, it’s obvious because if they were at least one of them would differentiate itself and move well to the right. They would present a huge competitor to Fox News and probably get a lot of the cable people to watch. I understand they are committed leftists, Marxists, etc. but the shareholders should start demanding some profitability, at least while they can and before the government bailout and takeover.

hip shot on September 29, 2010 at 9:47 AM

The MSM is part of the machinery that corrupts our government and destroys our way of life… The MSM must be destroyed along with every other piece of the machinery. We all know this now, and must make it happen…

GE, Disney, and all others who have paid for the machinery must also pay dearly…

Keemo on September 29, 2010 at 9:47 AM

Doughboy on September 29, 2010 at 9:41 AM

It’s also much easier to defend big government than it is to do the hard work necessary to understand it well enough to expose the waste and how counterproductive it is.

Our federal government is immensely complex. How many reporters are going to take the time necessary to understand its inner workings?

Easier to sit back, get information spoon fed to you from the DNC/unions and call people racists or selfish.

That’s “journalism” today and that’s why no one believes them.

NoDonkey on September 29, 2010 at 9:48 AM

Dan Rather killed the radio star, er umm, I mean the “News” industry.

abobo on September 29, 2010 at 9:40 AM

Actually, Dan only put the stake in place and held it while everyone else in the MFM took turns smacking it with the big mallet. The corpse was already dead, you know, but it takes real news professionals to finish it off.

trapeze on September 29, 2010 at 9:49 AM

For the fourth straight year, the majority of Americans unexpectedly say they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.

forest on September 29, 2010 at 9:50 AM

In a way, this is somewhat similar to polling job approval for Congress. Low numbers are the New Normal, and we elect people to that institution.

Congress ratings at an all time low….


…media credibility ratings at an all time low…..


………consumer confidence at an all time low…….

………..GDP at all time lows…….

……………Housing sales at all time lows


………………Retail sales at all time lows


…………………….car sales at all time lows


………………………..private sector hiring at all time lows


…………..job creation at all time lows….


……………..wages at all time lows…..

……………….
…………………All controlled and created by democrats.

“Yes We Can!!!!”

Baxter Greene on September 29, 2010 at 9:50 AM

MSM is imploding.

Schools of journalism need to be defunded.

Insurgent journalists such as James O’Keefe and others are to be revered.

Old news like the NYT, CBS, WaPo are dying and should be killed outright. They exist to preserve our liberties and watchdog our government, but do neither. They give tongue baths.

We are reaching a tipping point and the intellectual elite in the media need to be pushed out to sea on an ice floe to reap the rewards of their actions. There is no longer any room in this nation for this type of institution.

ted c on September 29, 2010 at 9:52 AM

NYT – All the news that’s fit to line the birdcage.

NJ Red on September 29, 2010 at 9:54 AM

Let’s call this like it is . . . the so called “media” is nothing less than the propaganda arm of the Obama regime or whatever left wing regime may be in power. The media critics need to muster up some guts and speak the truth instead of mincing words and flopping around like a fish out of water.

rplat on September 29, 2010 at 9:44 AM

…and take remedial courses in “interviewing,” and then get up off their butts and go out to do some actual reporting, instead of just reprinting the “propaganda of the day” from AP.

landlines on September 29, 2010 at 9:54 AM

The rapid flow of news and information via blogs, and alternative media now have made an end run around the large, cumbersome and unmaneuverable institutions of media. A citizen journalist can now wield equivalent power and influence upon certain stories through video, blogs and other outlets. If a nation state like the US can be harmed by small groups of terrorists, then media institutions such as the MSM can be toppled by small bands of creative, free and talented individuals who conduct covert operations journalism and strike key centers of gravity in certain organizations such as ACORN, SEIU, CAIR, NAACP and other cancerous organizations that exist.

ted c on September 29, 2010 at 9:55 AM

I know a member of the 15% who thinks media is too conservative. And yes she is a complete moron.

angryed on September 29, 2010 at 9:55 AM

It’s also much easier to defend big government than it is to do the hard work necessary to understand it well enough to expose the waste and how counterproductive it is.

Our federal government is immensely complex. How many reporters are going to take the time necessary to understand its inner workings?

Easier to sit back, get information spoon fed to you from the DNC/unions and call people racists or selfish.

That’s “journalism” today and that’s why no one believes them.

NoDonkey on September 29, 2010 at 9:48 AM

But their arrogance has let them believe that their monopoly will never be broken. They’re still acting like it’s 15+ years ago before the internet, blogs, talk radio, and FoxNews. It’s a whole new world in journalism. They’re better wake the hell up or they’ll all end up like Klein and Zucker(only without the golden parachutes.)

Doughboy on September 29, 2010 at 9:55 AM

After 25 years on the Editorial Pages of newspapers, I’ve seen firsthand the bias of the “newsroom”. I’ve had reporters take up collections to buy ads on our own newspaper to publicly condemn me and my work(management stopped them). I’ve known conservative or libertarian reporters who had to stay “in the closet” so as not to destroy their careers. And I’ve seen those who didn’t get assigned to trash beats. It’s about time the public is catching on.

cartooner on September 29, 2010 at 9:56 AM

Thanks to Newsbusters for all their hard work.

fossten on September 29, 2010 at 9:36 AM

And to the Soros-backed Media Matters for being a joke on a daily basis.

Del Dolemonte on September 29, 2010 at 9:58 AM

Doughboy on September 29, 2010 at 9:55 AM

“Reporters are frightened of either:

1) Having to do actual reporting which is drudgery compared to dashing off opinion pieces, or

2) Getting axed and having to get a real job.

It has them paralyzed and enraged at the American public.

NoDonkey on September 29, 2010 at 10:00 AM

The Media Research Center and Newsbusters does a great job at deconstructing and disassembling the media. I hope they have a plan for once the legacy MSM implodes, such as, honestly reporting the truth in the absence of the MSM.

ted c on September 29, 2010 at 10:01 AM

ted c on September 29, 2010 at 10:01 AM

It’s so simple.

You know, if you really love an entity (in this case government), don’t you want to help it become the best it can be?

Instead, “journalists” have allowed worthless, stupid Democrats to survive and actually thrive.

If reporters did their job, would any of the scum in this Democrat Congress have seats?

No, they wouldn’t. And maybe then, the Democrat Party would actually have people with integrity and ability.

Instead, they have what they have now.

NoDonkey on September 29, 2010 at 10:04 AM

And it would repeat the goofy statement again and again and again and again. Until it became an intimate part of national family life, like one of those tired jokes that everyone’s father has told 1,872 57 times (plus three I haven’t gotten to yet).

RalphyBoy on September 29, 2010 at 10:07 AM

The only thing that comes out of the MSM you can really believe is the sports scores.They can’t spin those.

docflash on September 29, 2010 at 10:11 AM

It’s not just politics where the media has lost credibility –
48hours and the “exploding” gas tanks? (with a little help from attached rockets)
Poison Gas used in Korea
Jason Blair (NYT)
Janet Cook’s fabricated stories winning a Pulitzer Prize (Wash Post)
National Enquirer scoops the rest of the media on John Edwards
John Stossel, hardly an arch conservative, was shunned at ABC for pointing out Govt failings

LincolntheHun on September 29, 2010 at 10:13 AM

It’s a good thing we have comedy shows like SNL and The Daily Show poking fun at the liberal media bias and Democrats, being the party in power, to even it all out. /s

Fallon on September 29, 2010 at 10:13 AM

Actually, though, this is a fairly new phenomenon.  The chart shows that the media hit a tipping point on trust at a certain point in time

No offense, Ed, but the guys who gave Rather a beating while asking ‘what’s the frequency, Kenneth?’ had him pegged long before 2004.

joejm65 on September 29, 2010 at 10:20 AM

I have always believed that the media should be going after anyone they can to make a name for themselves. If a Republican or Democrat lies, they should be called out. During elections, the press should point out everyone’s past speeches, books, and especially voting history and then let the people decide.

Now I do enjoy a good conservative commentator, and I am sure that there is room in the market for a liberal commentator or two. But today it is all commentators from 7-12 every night on every channel. That is too much.

jeffn21 on September 29, 2010 at 10:24 AM

All these low trust numbers are very good things. The first step in recovery is awareness.

paul1149 on September 29, 2010 at 10:31 AM

I thought most people watch Fox News because they view it as being more honest than the others. It would be much more interesting had the pollsters broken this out by provider, asking which news channel the respondent used and asking questions like (a) is your news channel objective, or, if not, in which way, and (b) are the other news channels objective, or, if not, in which way?

Generally, I’d have to agree with the high side on the poll; the LA Times yesterday ran yet another front page article on the City of Bell controversy, this time linking it with partisans running for partisan office (Cooley/Maldenado/Brown), but not a single mention of the City Council’s unanimous political affiliation. Do I think the LA Times is carrying water for the Democrats? You bet I do — especially when, counter to their assertion that they never reveal political party for nonpartisan office, they made sure, a couple of years ago, that we knew the political affiliation of the scandal-ridden Sheriff of Orange County — another nonpartisan officer.

unclesmrgol on September 29, 2010 at 10:33 AM

I’ve always said that if the issues were laid out truthfully and debated honestly.. and if the media were an objective observer.. then only 15-20% of the United States would be Democrats.

Seeing that 15% think the media is too conservative kinda confirms this. This group of our population is just too dumb, too brainwashed, or just too radically socialist to really break for logic.

tflst5 on September 29, 2010 at 10:33 AM

What kills me is…the pandering continues. While the facts are obvious, there are still many on air, even on Fox, that make excuse after excuse for Obutthead, and his administration. THey criticize one party, but pander to their own, for the same things they persecuted Bush, and the Republicans for.

It’s hard to take any of them seriously. So when fox has a fair, and balanced debate, and brings someone in to represent each party….it’s hard to take the debate seriously, when a Dem is called to the mat for this behavior, yet they continue to rationalize it, ignore it, or lie.

capejasmine on September 29, 2010 at 10:35 AM

It would seize on some goofy thing like a “mis-spilled” word or an out-of-context statement about inventing the Internet or seeing Russia from an impossible distance.

I refudiate their attacks, and ask them to please find the college transcripts of the former editor of the Harvard Law Review, to determine how his GPA compared to those of two former Skull and Bonesmen who ran for President in 2004.

The companies that own these news outlets just are not into profit, it’s obvious because if they were at least one of them would differentiate itself and move well to the right. They would present a huge competitor to Fox News and probably get a lot of the cable people to watch.

Gallup has been saying for years that 40%+ of Americans consider themselves conservative, and the people running FoxNews rightly thought that would be a nice market share, while five other TV news networks scrambled for the 25% or so of liberals. But the lefty networks got their wish: a President who calls Fox News “destructive to the middle class” and demonizes them because they (oh horrors!) make MONEY!

Steve Z on September 29, 2010 at 10:38 AM

Bias in the media isn’t new. Walter Cronkite, often called the most trusted man in America, was extremely biased–especially about Vietnam (circa 1960s). There is evidence that Edward R. Murrow slanted news to his bias in the 50s. I’ve personally been aware of extreme media bias since the 1975 “Guns of Autumn” that claimed to be an objective look at hunting.

What is new is that people now have so many sources for news. It’s easy to maintain the claim of objectivity when you are a monopoly.

Margee on September 29, 2010 at 10:49 AM

Only one liberal news network can survive. They are all cannibalizing from each other. The end is near for all but one.

faraway on September 29, 2010 at 11:22 AM

Courage, my fellow media whores!
/Rather

Missy on September 29, 2010 at 11:27 AM

If the media was really biased, it would ask, say, a meaningless trick geography question of one candidate

Would the media report it if a candidate they favored were to make a huge mistake in geography? Let’s say their favored candidate claimed to be in all 57 states. Would they report it?

Herb on September 29, 2010 at 11:29 AM

I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear the Dems bring up the “Fairness Doctrine” again after this.

Except their idea of fairness in the eyes of the Dems and media is like the NYT. They have a liberal debate another liberal, except one of the liberals calls himself conservative because he only believes in Socialism, not full blown communism.

jeffn21 on September 29, 2010 at 11:40 AM

15% say they are too conservative

What are they smoking?

Beaglemom on September 29, 2010 at 11:48 AM

What’s the frequency Kenneth…?

Kuffar on September 29, 2010 at 11:52 AM

In a nutshell: JournOlists SUCK!

byteshredder on September 29, 2010 at 11:56 AM

Visiting Ed’s captainsquartersblog link with Chrome gives:

The website at http://www.captainsquartersblog.com contains elements from the site rpc.blogrolling.com, which appears to host malware – software that can hurt your computer or otherwise operate without your consent.

Chickyraptor on September 29, 2010 at 12:05 PM

I’d say 50/50 is healthy. It’s when it goes above of below we should take note.

Ortzinator on September 29, 2010 at 12:18 PM

It would be great if there were one channel that was completely non-biased and reported the news. CNN should really give it a try; Hannity is just unwatchable.
TimTebowSavesAmerica on September 29, 2010 at 9:42 AM

Hmmm, Hannity doesn’t report the news, and he makes it perfectly clear that he is biased. He hosts an opinion show.

joejm65 on September 29, 2010 at 12:19 PM

Journalism has evolved into propaganda. Today’s MSM is little no different than Joseph Goebbels or Pravda in the days of the Soviet Union.

Ideology is more important than profitability or respect. The media promotes people it likes (e.g. Obama) works to destroy those it dislikes (e.g. Palin), refuses to report anything that doesn’t promote its agenda and is always “making things up.”

bw222 on September 29, 2010 at 12:19 PM

I recall media bias being obvious in the late 1950′s. Trouble was, back then you had no alternate sources. Now we do.

When I was stationed in Da Nang, RVN, back in the 1960′s, we had Armed Forces Network. The television feeds we had were simply U.S. networks spinning the same news (propaganda) that they were feeding the folks back home. It became obvious when, after seeing a SeeBS “news” story on an event I had witnessed, I had to ask around and see if anyone else thought the two events were related. SeeBS’s reporting was so twisted that those of us on the ground couldn’t be sure the network was reporting on the ACTUAL event. That’s why one of the reasons given by the North Vietnamese for their victory was the help of American news media.

oldleprechaun on September 29, 2010 at 12:31 PM

NYT – All the news that’s fit to line the birdcage.

NJ Red on September 29, 2010 at 9:54 AM

Not anymore. When I tried to use the NYT for that, my parrot got all bent outa shape and squawked “Who put all this SH*T on my floor!!!”

VelvetElvis on September 29, 2010 at 12:43 PM

The elite media has been the most powerful corrupt organization in America. Americans are in the process of dismantling this institution one outlet at a time.

d1carter on September 29, 2010 at 1:05 PM

I’m with Andrew. If the media was that biased, they would send a battalion of fact-checkers to investigate one candidate and not a single one to investigate the other.

Kafir on September 29, 2010 at 1:08 PM

Ed, you misspelled your caption.

It’s “shocka.”

fossten on September 29, 2010 at 1:11 PM

What kills me is…the pandering continues. While the facts are obvious, there are still many on air, even on Fox, that make excuse after excuse for Obutthead, and his administration. THey criticize one party, but pander to their own, for the same things they persecuted Bush, and the Republicans for.

I think race plays a major role here. During the election, Sarah Palin was the only one with the courage to attack Obama (and the McCain campaign staff had a cow). BORe cited a poll saying that Obama remained personally popular while his policies are not. Again, race is a factor; people are afraid to express their true feelings for fear of being called racist.

bw222 on September 29, 2010 at 1:19 PM

The only thing that comes out of the MSM you can really believe is the sports scores.They can’t spin those.

docflash on September 29, 2010 at 10:11 AM

Well, they have tried in the past. Remember, just like in the “regular” news division, the vast majority of sports “reporters” and “editors” are hard core Leftists to the core. I know this from personal experience, as a good friend is a sports editor at a major city paper here in the Northeast.

Hence, sports “writers” got Rush Limbaugh fired from ESPN, and blatantly lied about him to prevent him from becoming a part-owner of the Lambs.

And the New York sports media managed to convince gullible readers all over the country that the New England Patriots regularly “cheated” in many games over many years. In reality, they were cited for rules violations in a single game. But that didn’t matter to the jackals, who instead believed a discredited fired former Patriots employee instead, despite a total lack of evidence.

Last time I heard, that guy is an assistant golf pro on Maui, while the Patriots are one of the top 5 pro sports franchises on the entire planet.

Oh, and then there was the way many in the media spun the “Brady Tuck” incident in the playoff game against the Raiders in the snow a few years back. Don’t even get me started on that one.

Del Dolemonte on September 29, 2010 at 2:03 PM

Ummm “unexpectedly”

Just A Grunt on September 29, 2010 at 2:28 PM