WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Britons' confidence in their media took a significant hit in the winter of 2011-2012, with a new low of 33% of adults saying they have confidence in the quality and integrity of their media. The results represent the first decline in confidence that had been steady -- in the 38% to 42% range -- since Gallup began tracking this measure in the U.K. in 2005. A full two-thirds now say they do not have confidence.
These findings, from a Gallup survey conducted in the U.K. in December 2011 and January 2012, provide a benchmark of how Britons viewed their media before the results of a public inquiry into phone hacking at News Corporation's News of the World tabloid were released last week. Gallup asked Britons about their confidence in their media annually from 2005 to 2010 and then continuously from August 2011 to January 2012.
While the criminal investigation into phone hacking at News of the World was highly publicized in the U.K. throughout the summer and fall of 2011, the August-September and October-November 2011 readings were similar to what Gallup found previously. Britons did not express measurably less confidence in the media until the December-January reading, which came after a public inquiry into the matter began in mid-November 2011. That inquiry culminated in a 2,000-page report released last week in which Lord Justice Brian Leveson called for an independent body to regulate the U.K. media, with the power to fine them, among other recommendations.
It is important to note that a majority of Britons distrusted their media even before the worst of the News of the World scandal made headlines. When Gallup asked this question across Europe in 2010, Britons' views of their media ranked just below the European Union median.
It remains to be seen whether the U.K. media can usher in a new era of trust among the country's residents in the coming years or if trust will continue to decline.
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Results are based on landline and cellular telephone interviews with 600 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in December 2011 and January 2012 in the United Kingdom. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4.7 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.