Americans Distrust Media More than Ever

September 29, 2010

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Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Data-driven | Household Income | Magazines | Media & Entertainment | Newspapers | Radio | Television

A record 57% of Americans say they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly, according to a new Gallup poll.

Distrust in Media is Long-term Trend
2010 marks the fourth straight year a majority of Americans distrust the impartiality of the media. The 57% of Americans who express little or no trust in the mass media is slightly higher than the 56% recorded in 2009, while the 43% of Americans who express a great deal or fair amount of trust ties the record low.

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

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Overall, perceptions of bias have remained quite steady during a period of significant 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.

Dems, Liberals More Trusting
Democrats and liberals remain far more likely than other political and ideological groups to trust the media and to perceive no bias. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats express a great deal or fair amount of trust, compared to 39% of independents and 32% of Republicans. Similarly, 54% of liberals express a great deal or fair amount of trust, compared to 47% of moderates and 33% of Republicans.

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Less Educated, Wealthy More Trusting
Lower-income Americans and those with less education are generally more likely to trust the media than are those with higher incomes and more education. A Gallup subgroup analysis of these data suggests that three demographic groups key to advertisers: adults aged 18 to 29, Americans making at least $75,000 per year, and college graduates, lost more trust in the media in the past year than other groups, but the sample sizes in this survey are too small to say so definitively.

Daily Time with News Grows to 70 Minutes
As was the case in 2000, people now say they spend 57 minutes on average getting the news from TV, radio or newspapers on a given day, according to data from the Pew Research Center. But today, they also spend an additional 13 minutes getting news online (this figure was essentially nil in 2000), increasing the total time spent with the news 22.8% to 70 minutes.

About the Data: Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 13-16, 2010, with a random sample of 1,019 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling. The question on whether the media are too liberal, too conservative, or just about right is part of a USA Today/Gallup poll series conducted as part of the same survey.

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