At 34%, Americans’ trust in the mass media to report the news “fully, accurately and fairly” is essentially unchanged from last year and just two points higher than the lowest that Gallup has recorded, in 2016 during the presidential campaign.
Just 7% of Americans have “a great deal” of trust and confidence in the media, and 27% have “a fair amount.” Meanwhile, 28% of U.S. adults say they do not have very much confidence and 38% have none at all in newspapers, TV and radio. Notably, this is the first time that the percentage of Americans with no trust at all in the media is higher than the percentage with a great deal or a fair amount combined.
These data are from a Sept. 1-16 Gallup poll, which, in addition to the low rating for the fourth estate, also found weak confidence ratings for the three branches of government.
The percentage of Americans with a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media has not been at the majority level since 2003, although before that — in three readings in the 1970s and seven readings between 1997 and 2003 — it was the norm. The public’s confidence rating for the media has averaged 42% since 2004.
Partisan Divide in Media Trust Persists
Americans’ trust in the media remains sharply polarized along partisan lines, with 70% of Democrats, 14% of Republicans and 27% of independents saying they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence.
There has been a consistent double-digit gap in trust between Democrats and Republicans since 2001, and that gap has ranged from 54 to 63 percentage points since 2017.
There are several notable findings in the degrees of trust registered by partisans:
- For the third straight year, the majority of Republicans indicate that they have no trust at all in the media. This figure jumped 10 percentage points in 2020 and has been at or near 60% since then. This year, 57% say they do not have any confidence, while 29% say they do not have very much.
- At 27%, independents’ confidence is at the lowest point in the trend. This is also the first time that it has fallen below 30%. Meanwhile, 41% of independents say they have no trust at all and 32% do not have very much.
- While the great deal/fair amount of confidence reading among Democrats has never fallen below the majority level, the proportion with a great deal of trust has not topped 26%, and it is currently well below that at 18%.
There are some significant differences within several subgroups of partisans. These findings are based on aggregated data from 2020 through 2022, which allow for sample sizes that are sufficient for analysis.
- There is a clear pattern by age, whereby older Democrats and independents are more trusting of the media than their younger counterparts.
- While liberal and moderate Democrats register roughly equal levels of trust in the media, independents’ trust differs markedly, based on their political ideology: Those who describe themselves as liberal are the most confident, and conservatives are the least confident. This pattern is similar among moderate and conservative Republicans, though it is somewhat less stark of a difference. (There were not ample numbers of liberal Republicans or conservative Democrats to perform meaningful analysis among these groups.)
- Independents with a college degree are more likely than those without a degree to express trust in the media, but there are no differences among Democrats or Republicans based on college education.
Americans’ confidence in the media has been anemic for nearly two decades, and Gallup’s latest findings further document that distrust. The current level of public trust in the media’s full, fair and accurate reporting of the news is the second lowest on record. This new confidence reading follows Gallup’s historically low confidence in both TV news and newspapers in June and a new low in December’s annual rating of the honesty and ethics of television reporters. Newspaper reporters received similarly low ratings in the same poll.
Partisans remain sharply divided in their views of the media, with most Democrats versus few Republicans trusting it. These divisions are entrenched and show no signs of abating.