By Kent R. Kroeger (July 17, 2022)
The following essay uses only open source data and is available — along with computer scripts used for data transformations and index constructions — on Github (here). As always, all errors remain mine.
“Americans’ confidence in newspapers and television news has plummeted to an all-time low, according to the latest annual Gallup survey of trust in U.S. institutions.”
This was the lead in a recent Axios article announcing Gallup’s results on Americans’ confidence in its institutions.
Americans do not trust their primary news sources. And why should they? Our main sources of news routinely (deliberately?) misrepresent reality. The mainstream media (MSM) is the “principle disseminator of fake news,” according to Tsfati et al. (2020), who conclude that “most people hear about fake news stories not from fake news websites but through their coverage in mainstream news outlets.”
According Gallup’s latest numbers, 16 percent of Americans have confidence in newspapers and only 11 percent have confidence in television news (see Figure 1).
Most Americans have little confidence in the news they receive from their primary news sources, and this confidence has been falling consistently since at least the early 1990s.
Figure 1: Confidence in newspapers and television news over time (Source: Gallup Poll)
Why the declining confidence in the news media?
Some proposed causes of declining confidence in the news media include (but are not limited to):
- a general decline in the public’s confidence with all social institutions,
- the rise of alternative news sources which often justify their existence by expressing harsh critique’s of the MSM,
- a growing elitism within the ranks of MSM journalists and editors,
- an increasing disconnect between “reality” and what is reported in the news,