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I&I/TIPP Poll: Media Trust Took A Serious Beating In 2021

For the big media that dominate America’s cultural and political life, 2021 was a dismal year when it comes to public trust. The prospects for 2022 are little better, as both the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, midterm elections and a growing problem with inflation loom. Year-end data from the I&I/TIPP Poll show little public optimism that the media will do a better job this year.

The data for the I&I/TIPP Poll Media Indexes stem from a survey of 1,301 adults, conducted online from Dec. 1-4 by TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, I&I’s polling partner. The poll’s margin of error is +/-2.8 percentage points.

I&I/TIPP has tracked public opinion on the media since March of 2021. For simplicity’s sake, percentages have been converted to an index ranging from zero to 100, which makes for easy comparisons over time. Anything above 50 shows trust, below that, a lack of trust. 50 is neutral.

The year-end 2021 numbers tell a clear tale: The public became profoundly disappointed with the media’s performance during 2021.

For example, the I&I/TIPP Traditional Media Trust Index has fallen 15% since its inception last March. That, despite a rebound of 4.5 points, or 11.6%, to 43.3 in December off the record low of 38.8 set in November. This index is made up of major media, such as the Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, CBS News, and so on.

Also, the I&I/TIPP Alternative Media Trust Index has declined 12% over the past 10 months. The overall index rose 3.5 points, or 9.8%, from 35.8 in November to 39.3 in December. This index includes the New York Post, the Washington Times, NewsMax, The Daily Caller and RealClearPolitics, among others.

Intriguing splits in opinion emerge from a closer examination of the data.

Those still showing overall trust in the traditional media, for instance, include those living in the Northeast (54.9), people aged 25-44 (55.3), Blacks and Hispanics (51.5), those with incomes above $75,000 a year (59.1), Democrats (63.7), investors (55.2), urban dwellers (56), those with college degrees (50.2), and self-described liberals (61.9).

That bloc of nine groups expressing trust in the traditional media might seem impressive until you realize that all the remaining 25 demographic groups are below the make-or-break 50 level for trust.

Of significant note, Republicans (23.4) and “Independents/Other” (34.9) are both way below the 50 breakeven line. So are suburbanites (39.6) and rural dwellers (32.3). White men (45.0) and white women (33.4) also give low trust scores to the traditional media. So do those who call themselves conservative (32.3) and moderate (44.4).

As for the Alternate Media Trust Index, the pattern is very similar, except all the index numbers tend to be lower. And several groups that express trust for traditional media, don’t show the same trust for alternative publications.

For instance, Blacks and Hispanics, which together on the whole indicated trust for the traditional media, gave the alternate media just a 46.2 reading, down 11%, from 51.8 in March. And, perhaps surprisingly, all three ideological groups — conservatives (39.4), moderates (38.1) and even liberals (46.4) — gave failing trust grades to the alternate media.

In 2021, the media were faulted for sloppy, often-biased coverage of such issues as COVID-19, the bungled Afghanistan withdrawal, the January 6 “insurrection,” the inflation surge, President Biden’s apparent mental acuity problems, and the disastrous Build Back Better bill, among others. No question, the media have a tough hill to climb in 2022 to regain Americans’ trust.

I&I/TIPP isn’t alone in pointing this out.

The Wall Street Journal, for instance, ripped the media for what it called “The Conformity Crackup of 2021,” succinctly noting that “From Covid lockdowns to crime and cops, the political-media consensus was wrong.”

Meanwhile, the DailyWire points out that the mainstream media suffered a “Massive Decline In Interest In 2021,” citing a number of surveys to bolster its claim.

An Associated Press story, citing Nielsen company data, described a “significant” drop in TV news viewership: “12% at ABC’s “World News Tonight” and the “CBS Evening News;” 14% at NBC’s “Nightly News,” Nielsen said.

Digital news has also suffered, according to data from Comscore: The number of unique visitors to the Washington Post website plunged 44% from November 2020 to November 2021, while the New York Times experienced a 34% decline.

But why is there a sudden drop of such size?

A report from the Media Research Center suggests one major problem: “less than one-fourth (22.3%) of what is aired on cable news could be classified as old-fashioned hard news — just-the-facts reporting or live as-it-happens coverage of an unfolding event.” That contrasts with the nearly 80% “of talk-show discussion and opinionated commentary by the anchors.”

Moreover, bias is an enormous problem that almost never gets addressed by the media themselves, even if the problem is obvious to readers and viewers.

The Washington Times recently highlighted a startling survey by the Trafalgar Group revealing “that 76.3% of respondents from all political affiliations said that ‘the primary focus of the mainstream media’s coverage of current events is to advance their own opinions or political agendas,’ compared to only 23.7% who said news media was interested in ‘finding and reporting the facts.'”

“People don’t know what’s true and they don’t want to be stupid, but different sources have different answers and it’s hard to figure out where to look anymore,” Robert Cahaly, co-founder of the Trafalgar Group, said. “It’s the hiding of bias that creates distrust. It’s when you present something as ‘down-the-center’ that’s not.”

Is it any wonder that trust in the media is falling so quickly, as the I&I/TIPP Poll indicates?

As the New Year begins, I&I/TIPP plans to continue providing timely and informative data from our monthly polls on this topic and others of interest. TIPP has distinguished itself by being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.

Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.

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Terry Jones

Terry Jones was part of Investor's Business Daily from its inception in 1983, working in a variety of posts, including reporter, economics correspondent, National Issues editor and economics editor. Most recently, from 1996 to 2019, he served as associate editor of the newspaper and deputy editor and editor of IBD's Issues & Insights. His many media appearances include spots on the Larry Kudlow, Bill O’Reilly, Dennis Miller, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Glenn Beck shows. He also served as Free Markets columnist for Townhall Magazine, and as a weekly guest on PJTV’s The Front Page. He holds both bachelor's and master's degrees from UCLA, and is an Abraham Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute

15 comments

  • I haven’t payed attention to the ‘MSM’ for 20 years as they are hopelessly biased, intellectually dishonest, dishonest and more interested in clicks than substance. Even sos-called ‘conservative’ media is guilty, but they’re not as bad. ABCNBCCBSCNNMSNBC, etc. are, to me, completely worthless and actually serve as a ‘Fourth Column’ towards Leftist totalitarianism. Ditto Big Tech services such as Twitter, FascistBook and Good, which have served hard into authoritarian, Soviet-style agitprop. They are, in a very real sense, evil.

    I don’t trust them to accurately report the weather and sports scores at this point.

  • There are many examples of why people have come to mistrust the Media. We have come a long way since Walter Cronkite’s day. You can read or watch stories on the very same thing from two different media organizations and get two completely different stories. I am not talking about opinion pieces or analysis where you would expect differences. I am talking about articles that are supposedly hard news. A visitor from another galaxy would have to think that the people writing these stories were on hard drugs to be that different. When the Media starts giving the facts and leave the analysis up to the reader/watcher then maybe they will regain the respect of the majority of people. We are on the whole not stupid people. Stop peddling your bias as the one and only truth.

  • I grew up with the Sacramento Bee, so I come here pre armed with the experience of reading the most duplicitous, lying rag that ever came out in print. Since I was a 12 year old, I knew the media was an industry that thrived on lies.
    “If it bleeds, it leads. If it isn’t bleeding keep stabbing at it until it does.”

  • Nice job of de-emphasizing the causes of the distrust; right-wing sources supporting the Big Lie, COVID disinformation, and more.

    • Per the article, the people most likely to trust the media are Democrats, that is, those who believe in the Big Lie that the 2020 election wasn’t rigged, in the Russia Collusion hoax, the idea that we’re going to die in 10 years due to climate change, and other left-wing delusions. The people who are least likely to trust the media are Republicans, who have seen the mainstream media lie again and again. We understand that they are not really journalists, however much they may feign objectivity; they are partisans pushing Democratic narratives and doing their best to suppress news that reflects badly on their political patrons.

      There are a million examples I could cite, but here are two: the adoption of the term “insurrection” to describe the 1/6 riot (only idiots, sheep, and brain-dead leftist ideologues really believe that it was some serious attempt to oust the US government); and the fact that the BLM murderer who mowed down a crowd of Christmas parade attendees in Waukesha, killing six and injuring many others, got very little media airtime and was quickly dropped, in stark contrast with the constant and unending attention given to any incident where a black person is killed (even when that person was a criminal and the shooting by a police officer was justified). If the story supports the left’s narrative, or can be twisted to support it, it’s front page news for weeks; if it goes against their narrative, it’s quickly dropped, if it even sees the light of day at all. THAT is why we don’t trust the media.

      • Believing that tens of thousands of people, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, conspired to rig the election, and left no evidence, is just nuts.

    • Absolutely agree – the right wing wants to establish conditions so that they can grab power.

  • If those charts had been labeled “gullibility index” they would still be accurate, and more meaningful.

  • The mainstream media is preset to skew Democrat and liberal, but even these craven propagandists find Peter Principle champions, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, so foolish and impaired that embarrassment reigns for the White House and their peanut gallery. Trust in our government and its media acolytes limps away as fools cavort and liars lie.

  • The MSM is nothing but a pack of parasitic Elites serving one master or another. Nobody believes them anymore, not even their colleagues and employees. When the War begins in earnest, the people are going to burn their media institutions to the ground with their employees inside.

  • 90% plus of the lying corrupt FAKE NEWS MEDIA, NYT, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, NPR, LAT, WP, aren’t just liberal but they’ve become outright Marxist and are little more than propagandist for the most radical Marxist elements that now control the Democrat party. They lie constantly and when they get caught red handed they don’t even apologize. They handed themselves Pulitzer prizes for outright fabricated phony lies/stores regarding RUSSIA RUSSIA which is a proven Democrat Treasonous HOAX. They haven’t gotten any better since Trump is gone. Their TDS is still going full blast as you can see with the coverage of the PROTEST on 1/5. 400 or 500 protestors, not a single one armed with a gun, waved into the building by what appear to be FBI operatives and the security forces, are supposed insurrectionist. The FBI can’t find any coordinated conspiracy despite using fascist methods against loyal American guilty of nothing more than trespassing on public property. and NOBODY asks where security was that day or why they turned down the 20,000 Nation Guard Trump offered them to guarantee there would be no violence. Our National Media and the national media with few exception LIE. Of course Liberals and Marxist/Democrats have more trust. The media are spewing DNC talking points non-stop and not even covering reality. You can count the number of real journalists with actual ethics in the USA on one hand.

  • The vast majority of the lack of trust is due to powerful people who repeatedly lie to cast doubt on easily verified facts.

    The insurrection is one – we can easily see crowds of rioters with political flags that break into the Capitol Building in an attempt to murder the Vice President. We know who those insurgents are and who they support – yet elected officials lie shamelessly to try to convince Americans that those rioters were from other groups. Those rioters attacked the Constitution and a verified election and still people work hard to convince us that they were not who we can see that they are. Why can’t Americans just admit that a bunch of rioters attacked our democracy in hopes of keeping a dictator in power?

    The election is another – it was run by bipartisan committees and was verified by officials at many levels to be free and fair. Even Federal officials agreed that it was an easily valid election. Yet powerful people lie daily and claim that it was not valid. Americans need to realize that people are manipulating them so that they can grab power and avoid having elections in the future.

    The Afghanistan withdrawal is another example – we got out with a minimum of casualties after the previous President, the fat boy, boasted that he was going to get us out. But he did not. President Biden did exactly the right thing and got our folks out of there so that Americans are not dying for a country that will not defend itself. Now liars claim that we should have gotten all educated Afghans out before we withdrew, that we should have stripped the Afghan military before we withdrew. They would have collapsed even faster had we done any of that.

    • FACTS follow

      Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors,
      once more with emphasis

      Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the LEGISLATURE thereof may direct, a Number of Electors,

      NOT judge, NOT sec of state, NOT board of elections

      LEGISLATURE

      the dems did not follow the rules, therefore the dems cheated

      quod erat demonstradum

      notes

      as you may not recognize the above paragraph, it comes from the constitution AKA the supreme law of the US

  • “IF YOU DON’T READ THE NEWSPAPER, YOU’RE UNINFORMED. IF YOU DO, YOU’RE MISINFORMED.”
    Samuel Clemens

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