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Americans’ trust in the media hits all-time low in latest I&I/TIPP poll

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Do the major media outlets in the U.S., online, on-air or in print, care whether their audience trusts them or not? It certainly doesn’t seem to be the case today. Americans’ trust in the U.S. media has plunged to its lowest levels ever, the latest I&I/TIPP Poll data show.

Both big, mainstream “traditional” media outlets and mid-sized “alternative” media outlets continue to suffer from declining revenues as their audience and readership numbers shrink. The October I&I/TIPP Poll shows that a loss in underlying trust is a key cause of media industry decline.

The poll was taken Sept. 27-29 from among 1,378 adults around the country and has a margin of error of 2.7 percentage points.

Each month, I&I/TIPP asks two questions:

First, “Generally speaking, how much trust do you have in the traditional or established news media (Example: Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, CBS News, etc.) to report the news accurately and fairly?”

Second, “Generally speaking, how much trust do you have in the alternative news media (Example: New York Post, Washington Times, NewsMax, The Daily Caller, RealClearPolitics, etc.) to report the news accurately and fairly?”

There is no good news to report to the media. Both the traditional media group and the alternative media group hit new all-time lows this month, as readers, viewers and listeners became increasingly disgruntled by what they consider to be biased and inaccurate reporting.

For the major media, 63% of those responding said they either had “little trust” (29%) or “no trust at all” (34%). Just 30% said they had either “a lot of trust” (8%) or “quite a bit of trust” (22%). Just 6% said they were “not sure.”

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

Of all the major demographic breakdowns, only one group expressed majority trust in the media: Self-described liberals, with 52% saying they trusted the traditional outlets, but a nearly-as-large 44% saying they didn’t trust the media. That compares with conservatives (19% “trust,” 78% “no or little trust”) and moderates (30% “trust,” 61% “no or little trust”).

A similar result was seen for the “alternative news media.” Within that media grouping, only 21% said they had either “a lot of trust” (6%) or “quite a bit of trust” (15%), while 70% said they had only “little trust” (49%) or “no trust” (21%). Another 9% answered “not sure.”

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

As part of its ongoing monitoring of public opinion about the media, I&I/TIPP also creates an index for both media polls, enabling month-to-month comparisons of opinion trends.

This month’s indexes show just how far the media have fallen in public esteem. The Traditional Media Trust Index has dropped to 35.8, its lowest ever, and well below its high of 51 and its long-term average of 41.6. Similarly, the Alternative Media Index now stands at just 30, also an all-time low, and significantly under its high of 44.8 and its average of 37.2.

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll
Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

In short, America’s big media have a massive public relations disaster on their hands.

Note too that this month’s poll came before the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel, killing an estimated 1,300 people, and leading to the kidnapping of an estimated 200 other people, some of whom have since been murdered.

The media have come in for heavy criticism over their initial one-sided coverage of the terrorist attack on a “concert for peace” and nearby kibbutz settlements in Southern Israel, with the media irresponsibly reporting a Hamas claim that blamed a “missile attack” on a Gaza hospital on Israel.

It later turned out, the missile was an errant Hamas weapon, not Israeli, and casualties were far fewer than the 500.

So the latest anger over biased media coverage has yet to be reflected in the poll.

Yet, the egregious misreporting on Israel’s war with Hamas highlights the media’s growing crisis of believability. Recent developments within the media industry reflect how serious the credibility problem is.

  • The Washington Post announced last week it will lay off 240 workers, roughly 10% of its workforce, because, as the newspaper reported (quoting interim CEO Patty Stonesifer), “The Post’s subscription, traffic and advertising projections over the past two years had been ‘overly optimistic’ and that the company is looking for ways ‘to return our business to a healthier place in the coming year’. ” The Post is expected to lose $100 million this year.
  • Disney’s sports flagship ESPN is fighting falling ratings, as media critics and viewers alike complain about its increasing “woke” coverage of sports. With more TV viewers cord-cutting and viewing sports a la carte or via handheld devices, ESPN profits plunged 20% in the last nine months, according to the Wall Street Journal. And even after layoffs last summer, Disney is reportedly looking to unload the sports network.
  • Meanwhile, The New York Times’ coverage of the terrorist attack on Israel was so badly one-sided that it lost its verification badge from X (formerly known as Twitter). Other media have also suffered cracks in their credibility for publishing what amounted to little more than Hamas propaganda.

Worse still, social media’s decline as a source for readers is hitting established media hard. Major outlets saw their web traffic from social media drop from 11.5% in September of 2020 to just 6.5% last month. This is “alarming for publishers who have relied on these platforms for web traffic and advertising revenue,” wrote Kevin O’Keefe, a media and law blogger.

But parlous finances are merely a symptom of a far deeper malaise: A loss of trust that the media are unbiased.

The I&I/TIPP data aren’t the only to show this decline in media trust. Gallup, and others, have shown similar trends. It portends an ugly year ahead, as the nation prepares for an already-contentious 2024 presidential contest.

An AP/NORC Poll earlier this year found that three in four Americans believe the news media “is increasing political polarization in this country, and just under half say they have little to no trust in the media’s ability to report the news fairly and accurately.”

This should be a stunning rebuke to the media. Instead, media outlets deny any political bias, despite surveys of journalists themselves that prove it.

I&I/TIPP publishes timely, unique, and informative data each month on topics of public interest. TIPP’s reputation for polling excellence comes from being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.

Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor, and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.

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TIPP Takes

Geopolitics And Geoeconomics

1. UN Chief Alleges Violations Of Law In Gaza, Angering Israel – Al Arabiya

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres alleged violations of international law in Gaza and urged an immediate ceasefire as Israel pounds the Palestinian territory in response to Hamas attacks.

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

Israel voiced anger over the UN chief’s plea before a high-level session of the Security Council.

Guterres said that the Palestinians had been “subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation,” telling the Security Council: “It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum.”

An angry Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said, “Mr Secretary-General, in what world do you live?” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, called on Guterres to resign, writing on X that the UN chief has “expressed an understanding for terrorism and murder.”


2. Israel-Hamas war: UN Says Fuel Shortage Threatens Gaza Aid – D.W.

The United Nations Agency for Palestinian refugees said it could halt operations in Gaza if fuel is not delivered by Wednesday night.

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

Aid groups in Gaza have sounded the alarm about the lack of fuel for vital services such as hospitals that rely on generators. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Russia presented rival plans for a pause.


3. China Says U.S. ‘Exaggerates’ Its Military Threat In New Report – Al Jazeera

China’s Ministry of Defense has criticized a report from the Pentagon detailing China’s growing military strength and nuclear arsenal in the latest barb between the two superpowers.

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

“We express our strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to this report,” Defence Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said in a statement, describing the report as exaggerated hype about a “non-existent ‘Chinese military threat.’’’


4. Li Shangfu: Chinese Defense Minister Sacked – BBC

China has officially sacked its defense minister Li Shangfu, two months after he disappeared from public life.

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

No explanation has been given for his removal, nor has a replacement been announced for his job. His sacking follows the recent axings of several top military officials, including Qin Gang – who was removed as foreign minister in July.


5. Chinese Lawmakers Pass Patriotic Education Law For Children And Families – WION

The law aims to counter challenges such as “historical nihilism” and safeguard “national unity” as it legally guarantees patriotic education. It will take effect on Jan 1, 2024.

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

China’s state news agency Xinhua said, “While it is enacted to promote patriotism, the law stresses the need to be rational, inclusive and open-minded, open the country wider to the world and embrace other civilizations.”


6. Foxconn Under Investigation, China Urges Taiwan Firms To Show “Responsibility” – AFP

Beijing launched a probe into tech giant Foxconn – a Taiwanese firm that is one of the world’s largest contract producers of electronics and a key supplier for Apple’s iPhones –  over tax and land irregularities.

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

A spokeswoman for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office said, “While Taiwan companies are sharing growth dividends and achieving rapid development on the mainland, they should also assume corresponding social responsibility and play an active role in promoting the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.”


7. Hong Kong To Create Its Own National Security Law In 2024, Says Leader John Lee – WION

This comes four years after Beijing imposed sweeping legislation aimed at silencing dissent.

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

In 2019, Hong Kong was rocked by pro-democracy protests when hundreds of thousands took to the streets, demanding greater freedom and autonomy from China.

In Hong Kong, the Basic Law states that it must make its law combating seven security-related crimes, including treason and espionage. The task is yet to be fulfilled by the city’s government.


8. U.S. Orders Immediate Halt To Some AI Chip Exports To China, Nvidia Says – BBC

Tech giant Nvidia says the U.S. has told it to immediately stop shipping some of its advanced artificial intelligence chips to China. The restrictions were supposed to be introduced 30 days from 17 October.

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

Nvidia did not say why the timeline had been moved forward. The acceleration of introducing the U.S. curbs is the latest move in the ongoing technology dispute between Washington and Beijing.


9. North Korean Leader Pushes For Anti-U.S. Front Expansion, Courts China – RFA

North Korea made further overtures to China, highlighting their mutual history of opposition to the United States.

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

“The bond forged in blood between the people of the two nations will forever endure,” North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun said, as it marked the 73rd anniversary of China’s intervention in the Korean War.

China intervened in the Korean War to aid North Korea on Oct. 25, 1950, four months after the North attacked the South in June. Beijing refers to the intervention as “anti-American aid.”


10. India Might Drag Canada To FATF For Inaction Over Terror Funding: Report – WION

India is planning to drag Canada to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for its inaction over Khalistani extremism and terror funding. 

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

As per Indian officials, despite New Delhi having shared ‘credible and clinching’ evidence with Ottawa, the latter has failed to rein in terror funding operations on its soil.


11. Sweden Welcomes Turkey Ratifying NATO Membership Bid – D.W.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially submitted Sweden’s NATO membership application to parliament, with the legislature receiving the request on Monday.

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

The move brings Sweden closer to entering the defense alliance and would mark the end of a 17-month diplomatic standoff with Turkey over the issue. Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members who have not ratified Sweden’s membership request.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson called the announcement “encouraging news.”


12. India Poised To Become Asia’s Second-Largest Economy Surpassing Japan By 2030: S&P Global – WION

S&P Global Market Intelligence has forecasted that India, currently the world’s fifth-largest economy, will surpass Japan and become the world’s third-largest economy with a projected GDP of USD 7.3 trillion by 2030.

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

13. Indigenous Australians On Vote Result: Shameful – AFP

Aboriginal Australian leaders ended their vow of silence on Monday to denounce millions of their compatriots for rejecting a landmark push for Indigenous rights, saying the referendum result would be “etched into Australia’s history forever.”

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

“The truth is that the majority of Australians have committed a shameful act, whether knowingly or not, and there is nothing positive to be interpreted from it,” a scathing open letter addressed to the government said.


14. Fossil Fuel Demand ‘Far Too High,’ IEA Says – D.W.

The International Energy Agency said the clean energy transition is ‘unstoppable’ but added that the demand for fossil fuels needed to come down to meet targets.

Americans’ Trust In The Media Hits All-Time Low In Latest I&I/TIPP Poll

In its annual World Energy Outlook, the IEA said a “combination of growing momentum behind clean energy technologies and structural economic shifts around the world” could bring peaks in global demand for fossil fuels.

By the end of the decade, the share of renewable energy in the energy mix is anticipated to increase from 30% to almost 50%.


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Republished with permission from TIPP Insights

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