Trust in Mass Media Returns to All-Time Low

Just 40 percent of Americans put a “great deal or fair amount” of trust in the media–a majority tied for the lowest rate since Gallup started tracking trust in the media nearly 20 years ago.

After registering slightly higher trust last year, Americans’ confidence in the media’s ability to report “the news fully, accurately, and fairly” has returned to its previous all-time low of 40 percent. Americans’ trust in mass media has generally been edging downward from higher levels in the late 1990s and the early 2000s.

Prior to 2004, Americans placed more trust in mass media than they do now, with slim majorities saying they had a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust. But over the course of former President George W. Bush’s re-election season, the level of trust fell significantly–from 54% in 2003 to 44% in 2004. Although trust levels rebounded to 50 percent in 2005, they have failed to reach a full majority since.

Even Democrats have seen their faith in the media wane recently.

Trust among Democrats, who have traditionally expressed much higher levels of confidence in the media than Republicans have, dropped to a 14-year low of 54 percent in 2014. Republicans’ trust in the media is at 27 percent, one percentage point above their all-time low, while independents held steady at 38 percent–up one point from 37 percent in 2013.

However, as Politico’s Dylan Byers pointed out, the minority of people identifying the media as “too conservative” saw an uptick.

As has been the case historically, Americans are most likely to feel the news media are “too liberal” (44 percent) rather than “too conservative,” though this perceived liberal bias is now on the lower side of the trend. One in three (34 percent) say the media are “just about right” in terms of their coverage–down slightly from 37 percent last year.

Nearly one in five Americans (19 percent) say the media are too conservative, which is still relatively low, but the highest such percentage since 2006. This is up six points from 2013–the sharpest increase in the percentage of Americans that feels the news skews too far right since Gallup began asking the question in 2001.

The all-time-low numbers paint a bad picture for the future of many media outlets.

As the media expand into new domains of news reporting via social media networks and new mobile technology, Americans may be growing disenchanted with what they consider “mainstream” news as they seek out their own personal veins of getting information.

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