Trust in Mass Media Returns to All-Time Low

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After registering slightly higher trust last year, Americans’ confidence in the media’s ability to report “the news fully, accurately, and fairly” has returned to its previous all-time low of 40%. Americans’ trust in mass media has generally been edging downward from higher levels in the late 1990s and the early 2000s.

Prior to 2004, Americans placed more trust in mass media than they do now, with slim majorities saying they had a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust. But over the course of former President George W. Bush’s re-election season, the level of trust fell significantly, from 54% in 2003 to 44% in 2004. Although trust levels rebounded to 50% in 2005, they have failed to reach a full majority since.

Americans’ trust in the media in recent years has dropped slightly in election years, including 2008, 2010, 2012, and again this year — only to edge its way back up again in the following odd-numbered years. Although the differences between the drops and the recoveries are not large, they suggest that something about national elections triggers skepticism about the accuracy of the news media’s reporting.

Among Democrats, Trust in Media at a 14-Year Low

Trust among Democrats, who have traditionally expressed much higher levels of confidence in the media than Republicans have, dropped to a 14-year low of 54% in 2014. Republicans’ trust in the media is at 27%, one percentage point above their all-time low, while independents held steady at 38% — up one point from 37% in 2013.

Sharp Uptick in Americans Who Think News Media Are “Too Conservative”

As has been the case historically, Americans are most likely to feel the news media are “too liberal” (44%) rather than “too conservative,” though this perceived liberal bias is now on the lower side of the trend. One in three (34%) say the media are “just about right” in terms of their coverage — down slightly from 37% last year.

Nearly one in five Americans (19%) say the media are too conservative, which is still relatively low, but the highest such percentage since 2006. This is up six points from 2013 — the sharpest increase in the percentage of Americans who feel the news skews too far right since Gallup began asking the question in 2001.

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