American attitudes toward media have been changing over the past five years, according to a recent Pew Research poll. Trust in the press among conservatives and Republicans has taken a serious dive. But like other polls showing an overall decline in the level of trust in the media, it seems to portend a shift in society that could have ramifications in the future.
Conservative Trust in Media Plummets
The Pew Research poll revealed the extent to which trust in the media has dropped since 2016, noting that “the percentage of Republicans with at least some trust in national news organizations has been cut in half – dropping from 70% in 2016 to 35% this year.” The report continued:
“Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (78%) say they have ‘a lot’ or ‘some’ trust in the information that comes from national news organizations – 43 percentage points higher than Republicans and Republican leaners (35%) – according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted June 14-27, 2021. This partisan gap is the largest of any time that this question has been asked since 2016. And it grows even wider – to 53 points – between liberal Democrats (83%) and conservative Republicans (30%).”
The data show that attitudes toward the press have remained relatively static among Democrats. However, Republicans have become less trusting over the past five years.
When it comes to overall trust in the media, the poll found 58% of Americans have “at least some trust in the information that comes from national news organizations.” The report pointed out “this is the smallest share over the past five years this question was asked.”
Interestingly enough, Americans expressed greater trust in local news organizations. About 75% indicated they still had at least “some trust” in reportage from local outlets.
Trust in information coming from social media is also low. Only about 27% of Americans stated they have some trust in social media sites. The report noted: “This is about on par with late 2019 when 26% said they had at least some trust, but somewhat lower than the 34% who said the same in 2016. (In 2016, this question was asked of internet-using U.S. adults.)”
What Does This Mean?
For conservatives, these findings are no surprise. While they recognize the press has been biased in favor of the left, the past five years saw the Fourth Estate throw off all pretense of objectivity in how it covered former President Donald Trump.
However, it is worth noting that while the report revealed Republicans do not have confidence in national news organizations, this does not mean they don’t trust any media. The advent of alternative media has given conservatives the means to subvert the influence of establishment media outlets. Instead of watching cable news, conservatives consume podcasts, YouTube channels, and news sites they trust.
This new trend seems to be ushering in a paradigm shift in which news reporting has become even more siloed. Conservatives consume right-leaning content while leftists consume left-leaning content. As this shift becomes more pronounced, it could further contribute to the political division brewing over the past decade.
Without a press that at least attempts to remain objective, people will retreat further into those echo chambers, which could create a situation in which civil conversations become a relic of a bygone era. In an America already divided, this trend could become even more deleterious.