Can you believe the media? Evidence from 3 surveys
8,000 Americans were asked about the credibility of the media, as part of Voter Study Group, and the results suggest that there are still people who believe the media, but... There are not that many of them:
The unusual wording of the prompt might make you pause before concluding that only fewer than one in three Americans trust the mainstream media. So let's look at what the Gallup data shows:
Source: Gallup, Sept. 2016
Half of Democrats trust the mass media either a great deal or a fair amount. VERY FEW Republicans say they trust the media (14%) and Independents are in between (a bit closer to Republicans than Democrats).
Would looking at a third survey show anything different? Not really. According to Pew Research Center, 38% of Americans say they have at least some confidence in the news media:
I don't want to interpret the data as some national disaster. Most Americans do not have much confidence in business leaders (see above) either but they continue to seek jobs in the private sector and they like many companies even when they don't approve of their leadership.
To be clear: most Americans SAY they don't trust the media much. But the more important question is whether people ACT as if they don't trust the media.
When people read about an approaching hurricane, it looks like most people believe the press. When they hear about a violent attack in their city, they don't immediately go to the area identified by the media reports. When people watch news about Czech elections, they will not claim the true results were different on their next trip to Prague (unless they are trolling their friends). Once we hear that the economy is slowing down, how many of us say "now is a good time to quit and look for a new job"? It's easy to bash the media when you don't have skin in the game (when answering a survey) so let's remember a more reliable way to figure out what people really think is to watch how they behave.
Jan Zilinsky © 2019