Society

Gallup: Americans' Trust In Media Hits All-Time Low

| by Nik Bonopartis
A television news studio in Ohio.A television news studio in Ohio.

Put off by overwhelmingly biased coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign, Americans' trust in the media has plummeted to its lowest depths since pollsters began asking about it more than 40 years ago.

Only a third of Americans told Gallup pollsters they trust the media "to report the news fully, accurately and fairly," the polling firm said Sept. 14.

That's the lowest level of trust since Gallup began tracking opinions about the media in 1972, and it's a drop of 8 percentage points since 2015.

Trust in the media reached an all-time high in 1976 as American journalists developed an adversarial relationship with the government and politicians, producing seminal work and investigating scandals like Watergate -- which brought down Republican President Richard Nixon -- as well as producing compelling stories about the Vietnam War, Gallup said.

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In 2016, faith in the media dropped sharply, largely because Republicans and conservatives believe the media has covered Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton favorably, while giving mostly negative attention to Donald Trump, her Republican rival.

A year ago, 32 percent of Republicans told Gallup they had trust in the media. In 2016, only 14 percent say they trust the press to report honestly. That's the lowest trust percentage among Republicans in 20 years, Gallup said.

On the opposite side, 51 percent of Democrats told Gallup they believe the press is fair, down slightly from 55 percent the last time the polling firm asked the question.

"The divisive presidential election this year may be corroding Americans' trust and confidence in the media," Gallup analyst Art Smith wrote, "particularly among Republicans who may believe the 'mainstream media' are too hyperfocused on every controversial statement or policy proposal from Trump while devoting far less attention to controversies surrounding the Clinton campaign."

But Gallup said the eroding trust in the media isn't a new phenomenon, noting that Americans have placed steadily less faith in the press over the past decade. The pollsters also speculated that, with the "prevalence of blogs, vlogs and social media, perhaps Americans decry lower standards for journalism," a complaint that's become a familiar refrain in recent years.

Clinton has been using alleged media bias as a way to rally political donations, Howard Kurtz of Fox News notes, sending out fundraising letters accusing "Today Show" host Matt Lauer of sexism during a Sept. 7 forum he hosted with the two major party candidates.

In her pitch, she painted most Americans as less-informed than her supporters.

“Most voters aren't like us. Most people are picking up on politics when it finds them on Facebook, on the radio in the car, or when they flip through a magazine in line at the grocery store," Clinton's campaign wrote in the donor appeal. “Their information is filtered through the press. And right now, a lot of journalists are failing to hold Trump accountable and grading him on a curve, while forcing Hillary to meet an entirely different standard.”

Trump has grumbled about the press, as well, saying he's been the subject of far more negative coverage and complaining regularly about CNN in particular.

The Gallup poll's findings are the result of conversations with a random sample of 1,020 adults contacted between Sept. 7 and Sept. 11, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Sources: Gallup, Fox News / Photo credit: Ed! (Photography)/​Wikimedia Commons

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