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In U.S., Trust in Media Recovers Slightly From All-Time Low

In U.S., Trust in Media Recovers Slightly From All-Time Low

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' confidence in the accuracy of the mass media has improved slightly after falling to an all-time low last year. Now, 44% say they have a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the mass media, identical to 2011 but up from 40% in 2012, the lowest reading since Gallup regularly began tracking the question in 1997.

Trend: Americans' Trust in the Mass Media

The latest results are based on Gallup's annual Governance survey, conducted Sept. 5-8. Americans have consistently been more distrusting than trusting of the media each year since 2007, in contrast with 1997 through 2003, when the slight majority expressed trust in the media.

This year's bump in confidence comes mainly from independents and Republicans, after these groups' trust in the media dropped last year amid a heated presidential election race in which Mitt Romney supporters may have felt their candidate was being treated unfairly. Democrats' confidence, however, has been inching up since 2011.

Trend: Trust in Mass Media, by Party

Americans Continue to See Media as Too Liberal

Consistent with Republicans' and independents' dissatisfaction with the media, far more Americans say the media are too liberal than too conservative, 46% vs. 13%, as was the case in 2011, and every year since Gallup has been tracking this trend. Thirty-seven percent currently describe the media's political leanings as "just about right."

Trend: Americans' Perceptions of Media Bias

Perceptions of a liberal media bias are particularly strong among Republicans and conservatives, with 74% and 73%, respectively, saying the media are too liberal. However, half of independents also call it too liberal, while most Democrats call it "just about right."

Perceptions of Media Bias, by Party and Ideology, September 2013

Bottom Line

Although up from the all-time low found last year, Americans' confidence in the mass media remains lower than it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Their confidence began to decline in 2005 and has been lower since. The decline over that period is apparent among Democrats, independents, and Republicans -- although Democrats remain much more trusting of the media than do the other groups.

Democrats' higher confidence and Republicans' lower confidence in the media may be related to the media's perceived liberal leanings. Regardless of whether the media do favor a liberal point of view, the plurality of Americans perceive it does. Far fewer Americans see the media as too conservative.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 5-8, 2013, with a random sample of 1,510 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for 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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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