Miami, FL — As part of Knight Foundation’s belief that a strong Fourth Estate is paramount to a thriving democracy, the organization has worked with Gallup to study Americans’ trust in the news media, consistently finding that their level of confidence is driven by perceptions of news organizations’ accuracy, bias and transparency. However, a new report finds that there are additional factors that contribute to Americans’ trust in the media.
“American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy, Part 2” explores the disconnect between newsrooms’ efforts to rebuild the public’s trust and the continued decline of confidence in that effort by posing questions that distinguish between the practical and emotional dimensions of trust. The findings show that “emotional trust” in news organizations is meaningfully linked to whether people want to pay to receive news coverage and to how they feel in general about the state of American democracy.
“This data offers further evidence that sustainable journalism begins and ends with trust,” said Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen. “We believe a citizenry that trusts the news is more informed, more engaged and better prepared to participate meaningfully in our democracy.”
The new survey of about 5,600 Americans demonstrates that more than twice as many Americans have higher emotional trust in local news than in national news. Americans believe journalists working for national news organizations are competent but are concerned about their intentions and see local news organizations as caring more about the impact of their reporting. They also believe that the increased amount of available information makes it harder for them to be well-informed and, for those that rely on digital platforms rather than television or print, trust in the media overall is lower.
The tangible cost of low emotional trust in news
- Forty-four percent of Americans have high emotional trust in local news organizations, compared with 21% who have high emotional trust in national news organizations.
- Higher emotional trust in local news is related to a higher likelihood of having paid for news and willingness to do so in the future.
- Importantly, when Americans perceive that local news organizations do not have the resources to report the news accurately and fairly, they are more likely to say they would consider paying for news in the future.
Few Americans have favorable opinions of the media, the lowest level on record
- Only 26% of Americans have a favorable opinion of the news media, the lowest level since Gallup and Knight began tracking in 2017.
- More than half (53%) of the country holds an unfavorable opinion—down slightly from record highs in 2020 but still well ahead of the figures from 2017.
- While opinions of the news media deteriorated across the political spectrum, Fox News viewers (predominantly Republicans) are significantly more likely to have low emotional trust in national news overall, when compared to MSNBC and CNN viewers.
Knight’s Trust, Media and Democracy initiative seeks to inform the public dialogue on how to close the trust deficit and strengthen independent news sources that are vital to informed and engaged communities. You can read the full report (attached) and learn more about our Gallup/Knight work in media, trust and democracy here.
Contact: Rebecca Dinar, [email protected]
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
As social investors, Knight Foundation supports democracy by funding free expression and journalism, arts and culture in community, research in areas of media and democracy, and in the success of American cities and towns where the Knight brothers once published newspapers.
Founded by publishers who owned the largest newspaper company of their time, Knight Foundation is among the leading funders of journalism and media innovation in the country and works to promote more informed and engaged communities. In 2019, Knight doubled its investment in strengthening journalism, announcing $300 million in support over five years focusing on building the future of local news and information. Learn more at kf.org and follow @knightfdn on social media.
Gallup delivers analytics and advice to help leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems. Combining more than 80 years of experience with its global reach, Gallup knows more about the attitudes and behaviors of employees, customers, students and citizens than any other organization in the world.