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Americans' Trust in Mass Media Edges Down to 41%

Americans' Trust in Mass Media Edges Down to 41%

Story Highlights

  • 13% trust the media "a great deal," and 28% "a fair amount"
  • 69% of Democrats, 15% of Republicans, 36% of independents trust media

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans remain largely mistrustful of the mass media as 41% currently have "a great deal" or "fair amount" of trust in newspapers, television and radio to report the news "fully, accurately and fairly." This latest reading represents a four-percentage-point dip since last year and marks the end of improvements in back-to-back years after hitting an all-time low.

Although trust in the media has edged down this year, it is well above the record low of 32% in 2016 when Republicans' trust dropped precipitously and drove the overall trust reading down during the divisive presidential campaign. Republicans' trust is still at a very low level and a wide gap in views of the media among partisans persists as 69% of Democrats say they have trust and confidence in it, while 15% of Republicans and 36% of independents agree.

Trust in the Mass Media Remains Low

After hitting the low point three years ago, U.S. adults' trust in the accuracy of the mass media appeared to be rebounding -- increasing 13 points over two years. Yet, the latest reading from a Sept. 3-15 Gallup poll found levels matching those in 2017.

Line graph. Percentage of Americans who have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the mass media since 1997.

Gallup first measured trust in the mass media in a 1972 survey when 68% of Americans said they trusted it. Similar levels were recorded in 1974 (69%) and 1976 (72%), but two decades later, when Gallup next asked the question, trust had fallen to 53%.

Although overall trust was at the majority level until 2004, no more than 21% of Americans dating back to 1972 ever said they had the greatest level of trust. Currently, 13% have a great deal of trust, 28% a fair amount, 30% not very much and 28% none at all.

Partisans' Trust in the Mass Media Remain Widely Divergent

Americans' trust in the media has been eroding over time, but in the current highly polarized climate, the views of political partisans have become increasingly divergent. President Donald Trump's description of the media as "the enemy of the people" has undoubtedly colored the views of all Americans.

Republicans became increasingly mistrustful of the media in 2016 when Trump was campaigning for president and was sharply critical of the media's coverage of him. Between 2015 and 2016, Republican trust in the mass media fell 18 points to its historical low of 14%, where it remained in 2017. Following a seven-point boost last year, it has returned to 15%. For their part, Democrats have consistently been more trusting of the media than Republicans but rallied around the press and became even more trusting when Trump took office in 2017.

The latest data show that in the last year, trust has declined slightly among all partisan groups, but still remains sharply polarized.

Line graph. Percentages of Americans who have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the mass media since 1997, by party ID.

Recent Gallup data showed that Republicans' trust in most specific news sources in recent years has stagnated or declined, while Democrats' has risen. Fox News is the only national news source with majority-level trust from Republicans while majorities of Democrats trust six national news sources. Likewise, data from last year's Gallup/Knight Foundation surveys found similar results and also found that Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to perceive bias, inaccuracy and misinformation in newspapers, on television and on radio.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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