INDICATORS OF NEWS MEDIA TRUST: A GALLUP/KNIGHT FOUNDATION SURVEY
The report relies on a variety of research approaches — open-ended questions, closedended importance ratings and an experiment — and finds:
• Most U.S. adults, including more than nine in 10 Republicans, say they personally have lost trust in the news media in recent years. At the same time, 69% of those who have lost trust say that trust can be restored.
• Asked to describe in their own words why they trust or do not trust certain news organizations, Americans’ responses largely center on matters of accuracy or bias. Relatively few mentioned a news organization’s partisan or ideological leaning as a factor.
• Accuracy and bias also rank among the most important factors when respondents rate how important each of 35 potential indicators of media trust are to them. Transparency also emerges as an important factor in the closed-ended ratings of factors that influence trust: 71% say a commitment to transparency is very important, and similar percentages say the same about an organization providing fact-checking resources and providing links to research and facts that back up its reporting.
• An experimental approach not only showed the importance of accuracy, bias and transparency, but also revealed a complex relationship between partisanship and media trust. Both Republicans and Democrats were less likely to trust news sources with a partisan reputation that opposes their own. However, they did not express much greater trust in news sources that have a reputation for a partisan leaning consistent with their own...
... A major challenge in fostering trust in the news media is that accuracy and unbiasedness are often in the eye of the beholder. Previous research in the Gallup/Knight Foundation partnership found that Democrats and Republicans mostly disagree as to which specific news organizations are accurate and unbiased.
Still, Americans are unlikely to say that their trust in news organizations depends on political agreement, but the conjoint analysis suggests it may be more important than they say — especially for partisans when the direction of perceived bias runs counter to their own political leanings.
The prominent effects of partisan reputations in the conjoint analysis among Republicans and Democrats indicate how much these reputations can influence media trust. If certain sources are branded by opinion leaders as “liberal” or “conservative,” it could turn off large segments of the population to them and foster distrust in the news media more generally.
An earlier experiment as part of the Gallup/Knight Foundation work confirmed how powerful such branding can be, as people’s ratings of the same news item differed significantly when the news organization that reported the story was shown versus not shown...