Trump’s lasting impact
We’ve often written about our concern about what the public reads for its news and how to properly select trained sources, but new polling is making us more worried than ever.
Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with less than a third of citizens saying they have confidence in the media, according to a nationwide poll taken Sept. 7-11, Art Swift wrote recently for the polling agency.
Gallup began asking this question in 1972, and on a yearly basis since 1997. Americans’ trust and confidence hit its highest point in 1976, at 72 percent, in the wake of widely lauded examples of investigative journalism regarding Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. After staying in the low to mid-50s through the late 1990s and into the early years of the new century, Americans’ trust in the media has fallen slowly and steadily. It has consistently been below a majority level since 2007.
While it is clear Americans’ trust in the media has been eroding over time, the election campaign may be the reason that it has fallen so sharply this year, Swift reported.
“With many Republican leaders and conservative pundits saying Hillary Clinton has received overly positive media attention, while Donald Trump has been receiving unfair or negative attention, this may be the prime reason their relatively low trust in the media has evaporated even more,” he surmised.
It is also possible that Republicans think less of the media as a result of nominee Donald Trump’s sharp criticisms of the press. Trump has routinely said he is “fighting the dishonest and corrupt media,” while also taking the unheard of step of revoking press credentials for a presidential campaign and taunting reporters attempting to ask him questions. At most Trump rallies, he has made it a point to call out his traveling press so supporters can boo them.
Now, Republicans who say they have trust in the media has plummeted to 14 percent from 32 percent a year ago — easily the lowest confidence among Republicans in 20 years. This “Trump effect” can be seen in the fact that Democrats and independents remained comparatively flat in their confidence levels, falling just a few percentage points a piece.
What other effect could we possibly believe would happen when a party leader demonizes those who are tasked with protecting citizens from his or her overreach?
The analyst properly points out that trust in mass media has slowly been eroding for more than a decade, however, and the rise of blogging cannot be ignored. With social media and the internet feeding into our lives at an instantaneous rate, readers are likely losing touch with trained journalists and absorbing more of their news from opinionbased writers rather than objective sources.
With the collapse of newspaper’s funding model, based significantly around fledgling department and big box stores, they will increasingly be forced to rely upon the funding of readers to stay afloat into the future.
But will readers still turn to them in coming years as the trained, objective voice?