Consumers’ trust in the media fell to its lowest point this year. Only 32% of consumers said that they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in mass media versus 68% who stated “not very much” or “not at all” reports Gallup Poll Social Series: Governance. While Gallup has seen consumer confidence in media decline in the last 10 years, this year’s findings represent an 8% declined compared to a year ago. Gallup’s survey definition of mass media includes newspapers, television and radio. It is important to note that digital and news and information from the internet were not included in their definition of mass media in the survey.
The collapse in trust is most significant among young and middle-aged adults. Interestingly, those who associate with being a Republican had a more negative view of the media than those who associate with being a Democrat.
In a recent article, The Atlantic offered a few hypotheses as to why consumer trust is declining in media. Their first hypothesis emphasizes the lack of sophisticated journalism in the marketplace. The articles and programs which should inform and provide insightful dialogues are no more than a show and tell of political bantering. Another likely factor that it is an election year. Lack of media trust is cyclical and declines are registered every election year. Media trust fell in 2004, and in 2008, and again in 2012, and now it’s at an all-time low in 2016.
The third possibility could be that public faith in financial, social and political institutions such as the church, the medical system, the presidency, the Supreme Court, banks, big business, and Congress has also fallen this year impacting overall trust scores. The fourth and final hypothesis from The Atlantic is the intense media competition. In an effort to capture consumer attention, there’s more hype than ever before and some journalists are willing to take exaggerate positions on a topic throwing aside their objectivity commitment to remain on neutral grounds. Consumers distrust this type of media behavior.
Still others have suggested the decline in media trust is due to the overwhelming media options including one-sided and sensationalist approaches. As The Washington Post’s Executive Editor Marty Baron stated, “What distinguishes journalism and plain old content, is that we are digging beyond the surface. We are trying to find out why something happened, what are the consequences, who is affected – those deeper issues as opposed to just the bare-bones facts.” As the media landscape has expanded with so much user generated content including blogs, vlogs and social media, the trustworthiness of professional journalism is much harder to find among the clutter—but it has never been more important.