Gallup is out this morning with a new poll that contains a damning indictment of the mainstream media. 60% of Americans, an all-time high, do not trust the mass media to accurately or fairly report the news. Mind you, that isn’t 60% of Republicans or conservatives, but Americans of all political persuasions.
The record distrust in the media, based on a survey conducted Sept. 6-9, 2012, also means that negativity toward the media is at an all-time high for a presidential election year. This reflects the continuation of a pattern in which negativity increases every election year compared with the year prior. The current gap between negative and positive views — 20 percentage points — is by far the highest Gallup has recorded since it began regularly asking the question in the 1990s. Trust in the media was much higher, and more positive than negative, in the years prior to 2004 — as high as 72% when Gallup asked this question three times in the 1970s.
Last year, Gallup found that almost half of Americans (47%) believed the mainstream media had a liberal bias. Unsurprisingly, Republicans are the most distrustful of the media. Only 26% felt they could trust the media to accurately report the news. This is actually similar to levels registered in 2008.
The biggest shift is with Independents. Less than a third of Independents, 31%, felt they could trust the mass media. This represents a big drop from 2008.
As a result, only 39% of Americans say they very closely follow the mainstream media for news about national politics this election year. This, too, is a sharp drop from 2008.
The media has long had at least a slight liberal bias, but changes in technology and the market have pushed it much further left. In decades past, the media could act as a gatekeeper and decide what was and wasn’t news. They could push coverage favorable to liberals, but few people realized they were doing this. They were able to give an unnoticed and subtle nudge to politics.
They can’t do that anymore. They may ignore the news that the events in Libya were a terrorist attack rather than a riot, for example, but the information will still get out. They may try to ignore the economic slowdown, but people still feel the results. The media can no longer control information. As a result, rather than gatekeepers, they have become active participants in the political battles. Their liberal partisan bias is now obvious to everyone.
The good news is that fewer people are paying attention.
Note: Gallup’s question only focused on mass market mainstream media, i.e. newspapers, TV and radio. It did not survey internet news operations, where biases are often openly admitted. For example, everyone knows Politico and Huff Post are left-wing, while sites like this one and Daily Caller lean right. It would be interesting to compare trust levels between mainstream and on-line media