Poll reveals overall declining trust in news media

January 18, 2008

Fox News has surpassed CNN in the minds of Americans as the most trusted TV news organization, but the public’s overall perception about the believability of media news reports, including those by Fox, has plummeted.

Findings from a new Sacred Heart University poll show the most trusted national TV news organizations in terms of accurate reporting were: Fox News, 27 percent; CNN, 14.6 percent; and NBC News, 10.9 percent. They were followed by ABC News, 7 percent; local news, 6.9 percent; CBS News, 6.8 percent; MSNBC, 4 percent; PBS News, 3 percent; CNBC, 0.6 percent; and CBN, 0.5 percent. In a 2003 Sacred Heart University poll, CNN led Fox News in being trusted most for accurate reporting, 23.8 percent to 14.6 percent.

The poll also showed a significantly declining percentage of Americans say they believe all or most media news reporting compared to those who participated in the 2003 poll. Currently, 19.6 percent of those surveyed said they believe all or most news media reporting, down from 27.4 percent in 2003. Just less than one-quarter in 2007 said they believed little or none of the reporting, while 55.3 percent suggested they believed some media news reporting.

The poll revealed that Americans generally gave the national news media poor ratings in six different areas measured. The average positive ratings were:

  • Quality of reporting — 40.7 percent
  • Accuracy of reporting — 36.9 percent
  • Keeping any personal bias out of stories — 33.3 percent
  • Fairness — 31.3 percent
  • Presenting an even balance of views — 30.4 percent
  • Presenting negative and positive news equally — 27.5 percent

Additionally, the poll showed a growing perception that the media try to sway public opinion, 87.6 percent, up from 79.3 percent in 2003, and public policy, 86 percent versus 76.7 percent in 2003.

“Where do we go from here, 100 percent?” asked James Castonguay, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of Sacred Heart University’s Department of Media Studies & Digital Culture. “This poll is getting at shifting attitudes of what defines journalism, what it is and what it should be doing,” he said. “We are moving toward an era of advocacy journalism.”

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