In its latest poll on confidence in U.S. institutions, Gallup reports that Americans’ faith in the three major news media platforms—television news, newspapers, and news on the Internet—is at or tied with record lows, and that trust in Internet or online news topped television news for the first time.
The number of Americans who have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers has dropped from its 1979 peak of 51% to 22%, while their confidence in television news has fallen from a high of 46% in 1993 to just 18% today. Online news finished slightly ahead of television news at 19%.
Along political lines, liberals have the greatest confidence in newspapers at 34%, followed by moderates at 24% and conservatives at 15%.
When it comes to television news, conservatives have more confidence than liberals in television news by a 19% to 15% margin. For liberals, this is an 11 percentage point drop from 2013, which may be due to the struggles at both MSNBC and CNN in the last year.
Even though online news has topped television news in this poll, it really only did so because of a larger decline of trust in the latter, and not any large gain by the former.
Overall, confidence in all the major platforms is terrible, reflecting the continued skepticism by Americans that what they are watching and reading is actually news, and not opinion disguised as news, which has become increasingly prevalent over the years.
Can these platforms—mainly newspapers and television—regain their former highs? Maybe…maybe not. If they decide to actually report the news in a fair and balanced matter, then they stand a chance of regaining the public trust. But if they continue to editorialize the news, as they have been doing for decades at a rapidly increasing rate, the public’s confidence in them will only erode further.