Wednesday, September 22, 2021

News Media Trust: Depends On Age

A new analysis
of Gallup/Knight Foundation survey data reveals that age is an important differentiator in understanding the complexities of Americans’ trust in and perceptions of the news media.

Differences in citizens’ trust in the national media and attitudes about the media’s role in democracy vary not just by political partisanship but age as well.
  • Young adults (18-34) today are more distrusting of the media than older adults and report less trust in media than adults their age 20 years ago.
  • That said, more than two-thirds of young Americans say the news media is “critical” to democracy, and they are more optimistic than older Americans about the media’s role in healing division in the country.
  • Older adults are more likely to turn to one or two sources for news and care more about a news organization’s reputation and political slant in evaluating its trustworthiness, while younger adults are more likely to turn to a variety of sources and care more about an outlet’s transparency in facts, research and process.
For the past few years, Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have kept a pulse on the American public’s trust in the media. Recent polling shows that distrust is growing — but not to the same degree for all Americans. Trust in media has generally been increasing over the past few years for Democrats, while trust continues to erode among Republicans.  However, new analysis of Gallup/Knight surveys collected in 2019 and 2020 shows that variation in trust is not just between partisans. There are also clear differences by age.

Young adults (aged 18-34) are more skeptical of national news organizations than older adults. Just 29% of young adults say they trust national news organizations “a great deal” or “quite a lot,” compared to 41% of adults over the age of 55. Adults aged 35-54 are even more distrusting, with about 44% reporting they trust national news organizations “none” or“very little.” Only about 26% say they trust news organizations a great deal or quite a lot.

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