Gallup: People trust the media about as much as they trust the government

Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

If you think the title of this article is an indicator of some upswell of trust in the media you probably haven’t been watching much mainstream media. (And you’re probably a much happier person than many of us.) Gallup keeps a running record of surveys asking Americans how much faith they have in a variety of large institutions. The news media is one of those, and the 2021 edition of that survey was just released. The results may provide cause for some reflection among those charged with reporting the news to us, because the percentage of people who have either “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the MSM has hit the second-lowest point ever seen in the history of this survey. Only 36% of survey respondents expressed some level of confidence in the media’s ability to “report the news fully, accurately and fairly.” And the lion’s share of that pitiful amount of trust comes from Democrats, while independents and Republicans aren’t buying what the MSM is selling.

Americans’ trust in the media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly has edged down four percentage points since last year to 36%, making this year’s reading the second lowest in Gallup’s trend.

In all, 7% of U.S. adults say they have “a great deal” and 29% “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in newspapers, television and radio news reporting — which, combined, is four points above the 32% record low in 2016, amid the divisive presidential election campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In addition, 29% of the public currently registers “not very much” trust and 34% have “none at all.”

These findings, from a Sept. 1-17 poll, are the latest in Gallup’s tracking of the public’s confidence in key U.S. institutions, which began in 1972. Between 1972 and 1976, 68% to 72% of Americans expressed trust in the mass media; yet, by 1997, when the question was next asked, trust had dropped to 53%. Trust in the media, which has averaged 45% since 1997, has not reached the majority level since 2003.

Gallup has been tracking these figures for just shy of fifty years now and we’re living through an era where faith in the mainstream media has simply cratered. As noted above, the only time this figure was lower was during the 2016 election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (Is anyone really surprised?)

It’s also worth noting how enthusiastically (or unenthusiastically) this trust was expressed. Among those expressing trust, just 7% said they had “a great deal” of trust, while 29% said they only had “a fair amount” of trust. That’s something of a reversal from the distrusting crowd. 29% said they had “not very much” trust in the media, while 34% (the largest group measured) said they had “none at all.” In other words, nearly five times as many people were at the bottom of the scale than fell at the top.

The partisan divide was probably equally predictable. A whopping 68% of Democrats said that they trust the media either “a great deal” or “a fair amount.” But of course they would. The vast majority of cable news outlets and the larger newspapers constantly say things Democrats like to hear and spin the news in the most favorable way possible for Joe Biden’s party. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You just have to give the people what they want. By contrast, less than a third of independents (31%) and a confused 11% of Republicans similarly gave the media a thumbs up.

We should probably take a moment to compare these numbers to the trust the public places in the government. That survey came out last month. 39% of Americans place either “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the federal government to handle both foreign and domestic matters. That’s only a few points away from the score the MSM racked up. So since the media is supposed to be the watchdog of the government on behalf of the people, we’re now at a point where a significant majority of our citizens don’t trust either institution as far as they could throw it. Really makes you feel confident for the future, eh? (On a positive note, a significant majority of the public trusts local government to handle local matters. This falls in line with an established conservative mantra that the best government is the one that is closest to, and thus more accountable to the people it governs.)

So how could the major players in the media regain some of this lost trust? Let’s look at the three factors Gallup asked respondents to use as benchmarks. They wanted to know if people feel that MSM covers the news “fully, accurately, and fairly.”

“Fully?” When they intentionally suppress stories that don’t fit the narrative or reflect badly on their favored political party and ideology, you’d be hard-pressed to say you’re getting the full news. Particularly when they team up with the social media giants to ensure such news is suppressed. Examples include Hunter Biden’s laptop, Tara Reade, and that study out of Denmark showing that cloth masks were virtually ineffective against the novel coronavirus. There are plenty of others.

“Accurately?” How about the Biden border crisis? To watch the current coverage on CNN you would think the Del Rio debacle was only a momentary blip on the radar and aside from that, everything is just peachy.

“Fairly?” Don’t make me laugh. But just in case anyone in the MSM is actually reading these poll results and honestly having a moment of reflection, these are the areas where you could do better. Much, much, better. And if you really did that and kept it up for a couple of years, you might just see the country going back to trusting you a bit more. Maybe.