In an age when one of the President’s top advisors has openly declared the mainstream news media to be “the enemy,” it won’t come as a surprise that the American public’s overall trust in newspapers is remarkably low.
But at least it’s
higher than it used to be.
That’s judging by a new survey of American attitudes toward news publishers conducted by Gallup. (As a polling organization, it is also part of the elite media conspiracy, so take it with a grain of salt.)
According to Gallup, the proportion of Americans who have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers is 27%, which is abysmally low by historic standards — but up noticeably from last year, when it bottomed out at 20%.
For long-term perspective, back in the glory days of 1990, 39% of Americans said they had a lot of confidence in newspapers, according to Gallup. Although there have been ups and downs over the intervening decades, the general trend has clearly been downwards.
Those smaller variations make it impossible to tell whether the trend has finally reached an inflection point. Or, if we’re just bouncing along the bottom, trying to interpret the results in the light of recent events.
For example, it seems reasonable to hypothesize that last year’s low was correlated with the 2016 presidential election. It possibly reflected Trump supporters’ disapproval of newspapers’ overwhelming — and very open — opposition to his candidacy. But nothing that has happened since then would explain any change in their attitudes.
That suggests the shift is occurring on the other end of the political spectrum. Hard lefties are re-embracing newspapers they once dismissed as corporate tools. Indeed, the data supports that theory, as the proportion of self-identified Democrats expressing a lot of trust in newspapers rose from 28% last year to 46% this year.
The proportion among Republicans sank from 16% to 13% over the same period.
While it is an open question whether becoming partisan mouthpieces is a good long-term strategy — let alone a fulfillment of their historical mission — newspaper publishers can console themselves on one point. They are considered slightly more trustworthy than some of their peers.
Just 24% of Americans say they have a lot of confidence in TV news, according to Gallup. That's up from 18% in 2014.
The proportion expressing the same level of confidence in Internet news, in the wake of fake news, sank from 19% in 2014 to 17% this year.