Who you vote for has become the biggest driver of opinion as Americans’ trust in news media collapses to a historic low.
The findings on confidence in newspapers and television news come in a new Gallup survey of trust in US institutions, which tracks responses back over the years.
Axios Media Trends author Sara Fischer describes the erosion of trust as “one of the most significant signs of deepening polarisation in America”, with political party affiliation now the primary driver of opinions about the media's trustworthiness. Television news is now considered the second-least trusted institution in the country, following Congress, according to the poll.
“While other institutions have also experienced precipitous declines, including banks and the medical system, others – such as small business and the military – have held steady over the past few decades,” she says.
Only five per cent of Republicans said they had "a great deal or quite a lot of confidence" in newspapers, compared to 35 per cent of Democrats, and only eight per cent of Republicans had "a great deal or quite a lot of confidence" in TV news, compared to 20 per cent of Democrats. The views of Independents were generally closer to Republicans’.
Fischer says censorship and media bias have become a rallying cry among conservatives, prompting a slew of new media and tech investments, including alternative social media networks, entertainment companies and podcast networks.
“Data and experts suggest the public struggles to distinguish fact-based journalism from opinion content online,” she says. “The standards used by traditional media outlets – like fact-checking, bylines, datelines, and corrections – have not been fully-adopted by online news commentators on blogs, podcasts and social media.”
At an event in Washington last week, Semafor's Ben Smith noted that the “single most important factor” in media distrust was “the horrible coverage” in the run-up to the Iraq war and “the disastrous media coverage in the years after 9/11”, when television and newspapers were still the dominant forms of news. Politico founding editor and editorial chairman John Harris reminded Smith on stage that “in the old days”, a handful of people at a small number of outlets had all the agenda-setting power and they “would’ve all been white men”.
“All of us have biases and that maybe true objectivity is, what does your newsroom look like? How diverse is it?" said Al Jazeera English host Femi Oke at the event.