Americans seem to be closely divided on most major issues, from gun control to immigration. Even Presidential campaigns are won and lost by only a few percentage points. But here’s a subject that seems to be uniting us. By a full 20 percentage points, we don’t trust the mass media.
Gallup has been monitoring the public’s confidence in the media for decades. And it’s never been so low. In 2011 the spread was 11 percentage points – 44% saying they have a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the media, 55% saying they have not very much or none at all. Now, a year later, that credibility gap has essentially doubled: 40% with some degree of trust, and 60% with little or none.
The drop-off in media credibility has been even more dramatic over the years. In the ‘70s, confidence in the media ran as high as 72%.
Why the distrust? At least in large part, it seems, politics. The differences in media attitudes among different political philosophies are stark: among Democrats, 58% express trust in the media; independents, 31%; and Republicans, only 26%. As the chart above shows, media credibility always takes a hit during the presidential election cycle – but never as great as this year’s.
Maybe it’s not the media’s fault. Considering our dysfunctional government today, maybe there’s a “shoot-the-messenger” aspect to all this: we don’t like the news being delivered, so we don’t like the deliverer. In any event, it’s another threat to the traditional news media that are having to scramble to prove themselves relevant – and economically viable – in the digital age.
Let’s hope they can rebuild public trust after the election. Maybe do some p.r.?