Americans’ trust in their media networks is the lowest in the world, according to a report published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and Oxford University. Titled “Digital News Report 2021,” the study ranks trust in media in the U.S. 46th out of 46 nations. Among the nations omitted from the study are Russia and China, two regions where freedom of press and speech are severely curtailed.
According to the study, Finland has the highest level of overall trust, with 65 percent of Finns saying that they trust the news most of the time. In the United States, only 29 percent shared the same view.
The U.S. also had a negative trust score of -15 points, the lowest among all nations. Other countries with a trust deficit include Bulgaria (-12 points), France (-8 points), Hungary (-6 points), Chile (-4 points), and Argentina (-3 points). European countries such as Finland and the Netherlands had high net positive trust scores. Denmark had a large net positive score of 48 points.
In the United States, “three-quarters (75%) of those who self-identify on the right feel that media coverage of their views is unfair and this compares with just a third of those on the left. Younger people (under 35s) are also more likely to feel that the media is unfair when compared with older groups,” the report stated.
Both right and left wings in the UK felt that the media covered their political views unfairly, with the youngest group of under 25s feeling that they were least represented.
Online media was ranked as the top source of news in America, with CNN.com, Yahoo! News, New York Times online, and Fox News online leading the pack. In terms of offline reach, local TV news were the most popular, followed by Fox News, CNN, and ABC News.
Local TV news had the highest brand trust score, followed by CBS, ABC, BBC, and Wall Street Journal. According to the report, “News in Social” had a trust score of 13 percent, while “News in Search” had a score of 22 percent.
21 percent admitted to paying for online news. In the social media space, Facebook had the highest trust score, followed by YouTube, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Whatsapp. 31 percent shared news via social media, messaging, or email.
The report stated that Donald Trump’s exit from the White House resulted in a “seven percentage point drop in the most avid news users (who access once a day or more), along with a decline of 11 percentage points in respondents who are ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ interested in news.”
Online traffic to the Washington Post fell by 26 percent in February compared to January. Similarly, traffic to The New York Times declined by 14 percent. By mid-March, MSNBC and CNN had lost 26 percent and 45 percent of their prime-time audiences, respectively.
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, low online traffic, loss of advertisements, and loss of other revenue sources have had a devastating impact on media outlets across the country. “By February 2021, more than 60 local newsrooms across the country had closed, including those owned by large chains (CNHI) and local families and many that had been operating for more than a century.”
“These closures, as well as layoffs, furloughs, and reduced print days, exacerbated concerns about the rise of news deserts in the US, where nearly 1,800 newspapers have closed since 2004,” according to the report.
In January, a poll conducted by consultancy firm Edelman showed that fewer than half of all Americans trusted traditional media. 56 percent agreed that reporters were purposely trying to mislead people. 58 percent believed that most news organizations were concerned about pushing an ideology or political position rather than informing their readers. Trust in social media was recorded at just 27 percent, an all-time low.
A Gallup poll conducted in September 2020 found that six in 10 people ranked their trust in mass media as “not very much” or “none at all.”
With reporting by Prakash Gogoi.