With mass layoffs at a number of companies and new revelations of intervention in recent elections, the media have had a rough two months. Now, it gets even rougher. According to the latest I&I/TIPP Poll, trust in the media has now fallen to record lows.
Each month, the I&I/TIPP Poll asks respondents two questions: “How much trust do you have in the traditional or established news media (Example: Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, CBS News, etc.) to report the news accurately and fairly?”
Then the same question is asked about the “alternative media,” which includes less-mainstream outlets, the New York Post, Washington Times, News Max, The Daily Caller, and Real Clear Politics, among others.
For both sets of media, the news is not good.
In the case of the traditional media, just 33% of poll respondents said they either had a “lot of trust” (12%) or “quite a bit of trust” (21%) in these outlets. But the “No trust” group totaled 61%, with 32% expressing “little trust” and 29% “no trust at all.”
But even those numbers might be weaker than they appear.
The “trust” data are mainly elevated by just one group: Democrats, according to the online I&I/TIPP Poll, taken from Nov. 2-4 from a sample of 1,359 adults. The margin of error is 2.8 percentage points.
A majority of Democrats (54%) say they trust the Big Media outlets, versus just 42% who say they don’t. That compares with a relatively tiny 15% of Republicans who trust the media, compared to 81% who say they don’t.
Among independents, the unofficial third party in America, the comparable numbers are 26% “trust,” and 66% “no trust.”
In essence, that’s a vote of no confidence in the big media by about two-thirds of voters.
That pattern is pretty much repeated for the alternative media category, but even worse.
A mere 26% say they have “a lot” (10%) or “quite a bit” (16%) of trust, compared to the 67% who claim “little trust” (39%) or “no trust” (28%).
Unlike the traditional media data, which showed Democrats trusting those outlets while Republicans and independents didn’t, the alternative media find favor with no one. Dems show a trust/no trust ratio of 36% to 58%, compared to the GOP’s 21% to 74% and independents’ 18% to 71%.
In short, the media, in a highly competitive commercial market for news and information, have a serious problem: Their customers, and potential customers, no longer have confidence they can do their job.
The weakness really shows up when you look at the I&I/TIPP Media Trust Indexes. Each month, we take the basic polling data and adjust it to create an index. This lets us see long-term trends.
November, the month of the 2022 midterms, was a disaster for the media. The Traditional Media Trust Index fell from 39.2 in October to 38.1 in November, its lowest-ever reading since the index was created in March of 2021.
Meanwhile, the Alternative Media Index fell from 37.6 in October to 34.2 in November, matching the February 2022 low for the index.
Does this help explain the extraordinary recent turmoil, in particular among social media companies?
Within the media landscape, online news, blogs, opinion sites, but especially social media sites, are being challenged for their bias. It’s an ongoing trend.
Most prominently, Twitter’s $42 billion takeover by Elon Musk led to thousands of layoffs at the company and a bitter, highly politicized debate over how much censorship, if any, Twitter should exercise over content.
Political waters were roiled by revelations that Twitter actively dampened tweets made in support of Republican candidates, and cooperated with Joe Biden’s campaign to benefit Biden and other Democrats.
“Elon Musk, Twitter’s new owner and CEO, just dropped a bombshell that has no known parallel in American history: The Biden administration and the Democratic National Committee colluded with Twitter to swing the 2020 election to Joe Biden and his Democrats,” wrote William Sullivan on the American Thinker site.
Musk himself ripped liberal news media for “deceiving the American public” and for “not being truthful” in ignoring the Hunter Biden laptop scandal, while journalist Matt Taibbi posted an epic thread on Twitter showing the evidence for Twitter’s electoral shenanigans.
Not only did liberal journalists not congratulate Taibbi, they vilified him for speaking out.
Here’s some of the other self-inflicted media misery:
- New CNN CEO Chris Licht laid off hundreds of people, and all but admitted his network’s political bias had gotten out of hand and vowed his network will pursue “truth” in the future.
- Disney, owner of several media properties along with its iconic theme parks, brought back former CEO Bob Iger following a series of movie flops and ongoing “woke” disputes that have dampened traffic at the company’s parks.
- Apple has been accused of helping the Chinese regime quell anti-government demonstrations by shutting down a key app used by many of the demonstrators.
- TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media site favored by younger users, has come under fire for its ties to China’s government and concerns that Xi Jinping’s regime could use the app to influence future elections.
- Facebook, likewise, has been harshly criticized for biasing social media mentions on its popular site and for letting government and law enforcement officials request censorship of posts via a special “portal.”
It’s hard to build trust when there are abundant signs that you are no longer trustworthy. Some big media, social media, and news sites are at least acknowledging criticism. But will that be enough?
I&I/TIPP publishes timely, unique, and informative data each month on topics of public interest. TIPP’s reputation for polling excellence comes from 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.