WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The "whole disgraceful and sorry episode" of media phone hacking in the United Kingdom is another scandal that has shaken people's confidence "to the core," Prime Minister David Cameron said earlier this week. Gallup surveys, however, show the British public hasn't placed much faith in its media for some time. Since 2005, a majority of Britons have lacked confidence in their media.
These findings reflect the results from Gallup surveys in the United Kingdom well before the British media found themselves facing an independent inquiry into their ethics, practices, and culture, as well as claims that the News of the World hacked phones and made payoffs to the police.
Although majorities of Britons have consistently said they are not confident in the quality and integrity of their media, they are neither the most likely nor the least likely across the EU to feel this way. The French, Germans, Hungarians, and Greeks surveyed in 2010 were far more critical of their media, with nearly two-thirds or more saying they are not confident. Americans, too, were more distrusting; 69% said they lacked confidence.
Britons' distrust may not entirely be an indictment of the media's performance, however. Gallup's work with researchers at the University of Georgia in the U.S. found confidence in the quality and integrity of the media is negatively associated with measures of press freedom in countries where people are not afraid to express their political views. This suggests people in free societies may simply feel freer to criticize their media.
It's too early to tell to what extent the phone hacking scandal will affect Britons' already jaded views of their media. Taken together, these findings suggest that regardless of how Britain's media react to the current scandal, and whether press reforms emerge from the ongoing inquiry, it will likely be difficult to change residents' minds about them.
For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.
Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted between May and August 2010 in the countries referenced in this article. For results based on the total sample of national adults in the United Kingdom, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.7 percentage points. For results based on the total sample of national adults in all countries surveyed, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ± 3.5 percentage points to a high of ±4.0 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.