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Why only 6 percent of Americans trust media

Trust in media has been falling, to a point where it has been called the greatest challenge of our industry. But what would make people trust the media more? A new survey by the American Press Institute and AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research sheds some light on the issue.

by Nick Tjaardstra nick.tjaardstra@wan-ifra.org | April 19, 2016

Overall, only six percent of Americans say they “have a great deal of confidence” in the press, putting it on par with Congress (four percent) and much lower than other institutions, such as the military (the highest at 48 percent), the scientific community (at 35 percent) and the Supreme Court (at 26 percent), according to the poll.

The issue of trust in media will be discussed at WAN-IFRA’s 23rd World Editors Forum in Cartagena, Colombia, this June. 

When asked why people distrust the media, bias (26 percent) and inaccuracy (25 percent) were the most cited reasons. Four in 10 Americans recall a specific incident that made them trust the media less.

The most important factors that contribute to trust in the media are accuracy (85 percent), followed by completeness (77 percent), transparency (68 percent), balance (66 percent) and presentation (48 percent). For digital news readers, not having ad interference is key (63 percent), as well as loading time (63 percent), and working well on a mobile phone (60 percent).

The poll also found that people trust different types of news by different criteria. For example, the use of experts and documents are valued more importantly in domestic issues than lifestyle news (76 percent vs. 48 percent), and people want their political news to be more concise than sports news (80 percent vs. 60 percent).

While 87 percent of those polled said they use Facebook to get news, only 12 percent place high trust on the content of that platform.

Demographics, race and socioeconomic factors also affect trust level. Americans with higher incomes and more education are more likely to place greater importance on general concepts traditionally associated with trust, such as accuracy, completeness, balance, and transparency. Minorities value seeing stories about their own communities and people like them in the reporting.

Trust is important for media organizations, not only because it is the foundation of the business, but it is also good for business. The poll showed that people who trust the media more tend to follow the news (40 percent vs. 26 percent), share it with friends (55 percent vs. 32 percent) and pay for a subscription (23 percent vs. 12 percent).

Read the full report here.