Despite skepticism about polls overall, most Americans have confidence in the news sources they use most.
A survey by the Gallup Organization this month (Sept. 6-9, 2012) finds a new low in the number of Americans who trust in the “mass media – such as newspapers, TV, and radio – when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately, and fairly.” Currently, 40% express a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust, compared with 44% a year ago, and 43% the year before that.
Rating the “mass media” in general is a bit vague, however, since people may have an overall negative view, but still have positive views about individual media outlets.
That turns out to be the case. According to Pew Research’s latest survey (July 19-22, 2012), of 13 specific news organizations tested, all of them are viewed positively by at least 49% of Americans. The public is about evenly divided on four of the media outlets, but clear majorities give positive ratings to the other nine.
Of course, the rating scales of the two polling organizations are a bit different. Gallup has a 4-point scale that measures “trust and confidence…to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly,” while Pew has a 4-point scale that measures “believability.” Still, the conclusion seems pretty clear. Relatively few people give positive ratings to the mass media overall, but half to most people give positive ratings to specific selected media.
Perhaps more interesting, however, is that a Pew poll last year found a substantial majority of Americans giving positive evaluations of “the news organizations you use most,” though an even larger majority gave negative evaluations of “news organizations in general.”
So, the evidence suggests that most Americans trust some news source, even if most are also skeptical about news organizations in general. This may not be the ideal situation for a democracy, but it suggests a less cynical public than one which has a majority viewing all news organizations as untrustworthy.