POLL: Fewer That Half Of Americans Trust ‘Traditional Media’

Posted on Fri 01/22/2021 by

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By Tim Graham ~

Felix Salmon at Axios reported Thursday that for the first time ever, fewer than half of all Americans have trust in traditional media, “according to data from Edelman’s annual trust barometer shared exclusively with Axios.” It’s only 46 percent.

  • 56% of Americans agree with the statement that “Journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”
  • 58% think that “most news organizations are more concerned with supporting an ideology or political position than with informing the public.”
  • When Edelman re-polled Americans after the election, the figures had deteriorated even further, with 57% of Democrats trusting the media and only 18% of Republicans.

They also found “Trust in social media has hit an all-time low of 27%.”

We take our objections to the media personally: “Mistrust of media is now a central part of many Americans’ personal identity — an article of faith that they weren’t argued into and can’t be argued out of.”

Salmon has an interesting nomination for which segment of the public can restore the people’s trust in media, CEOs! But what happens when CEOs own media, like Jeff Bezos and The Washington Post?

  • CEOs (a/k/a the fourth branch of government) are at or near the top of Edelman’s list of trusted institutions.
  • By the numbers: 61% of Trump voters say that they trust their employer’s CEO. That compares to just 28% who trust government leaders, and a mere 21% who trust journalists.

The bottom line: CEOs have long put themselves forward as the people able to upgrade America’s physical infrastructure. Now it’s time for them to use the trust they’ve built up to help rebuild our civic infrastructure.

PS: Good information goes both ways. Axios also brought in the term “information hygiene” in an earlier post on Edelman’s survey:

  • Most people have terrible information hygiene, and admit that they don’t actively verify information, avoid echo chambers or share things without first vetting information.

So media consumers should put on some kind of deodorant to prevent having an information-hygiene problem.

Tim Graham is the Executive Editor at NewsBusters, and he is the Director of  Media Analysis at the Media Research Center. His career at the MRC began in February 1989 as associate editor of MediaWatch, the monthly newsletter of the MRC before the Internet era.

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