Confidence In U.S. Media Hits Record Low, Finds Poll


Only 32% of U.S. citizens trust the media to report the news fairly and accurately, while a record 39% do not trust the media at all, finds a Gallup poll published Friday.

The share of U.S. citizens who expressed some amount of trust in the media matches the record low the pollster recorded in 2016, while the previous record for total distrust was 38%. 

Even Democrats, who tend to have more confidence in the media than Republicans, have lost faith in the news over the last year to a significant degree – just 58% expressed some level of trust. This is a 12-point decline from 2022’s figures, attributed the diminishing trust among younger Democrats.

Only 11% of Republicans reported some confidence in the media establishment, according to Friday’s poll. However, the 47-point gap between respondents from the two major US political parties is the narrowest recorded since 2016, when Republicans’ trust in the establishment had fallen dramatically.

The survey sampled 1,016 Americans during the first two weeks of September. It is only the second time since Gallup began asking the question in 1972 that more Americans professed no confidence at all in the media than those who claimed to have a great deal or fair amount of trust. 

Even in the midst of the ‘fake news’ crisis during the 2016 presidential election, the Americans polled were more likely to say they had “not very much” trust in the media (41%), rather than “none at all” (27%). 

While between 68% and 72% of Americans expressed some amount of trust in the media when polled in the 1970s, that portion has declined significantly in recent years. Since 2005, when 44% of poll respondents expressed some confidence in the media establishment, fewer than half have told Gallup that they trusted the media to report the news fairly and accurately.

In July, a Gallup poll found just 18% of respondents had confidence in newspapers and just 16% in television news – lower than Big Tech or the banking industry (at 26% each). Only Congress (8%) and Big Business (14%) consistently ranked lower. 

Journalists’ ethical standards were rated as “low” or “very low” by 42% of respondents in a January poll – above car salesmen and telemarketers, but below lawyers and real estate agents. While the media establishment and the public relations firms that service it have been fretting about the public’s growing distrust in their industry for years, they have been unable to reverse the trend.

Earlier Poll Results

Two years ago, another Gallup poll found:

U.S. citizens’ trust in the media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly has edged down four percentage points since 2020 to 36%, making 2021’s reading the second lowest in Gallup’s trend.

In all, 7% of U.S. adults say they have “a great deal” and 29% “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in newspapers, television and radio news reporting — which, combined, is four points above the 32% record low in 2016, amid the divisive presidential election campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In addition, 29% of the public currently registers “not very much” trust and 34% have “none at all.”


Americans’ trust in the mass media when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately and fairly, since 1997. In 2021, 36% have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the mass media, and 63% have not very much or none at all. This is the lowest rating since 2016, when trust was 32%, the lowest on record.

These findings, from a Sept. 1-17, 2021 poll, are the latest in Gallup’s tracking of the public’s confidence in key U.S. institutions, which began in 1972. Between 1972 and 1976, 68% to 72% of Americans expressed trust in the mass media; yet, by 1997, when the question was next asked, trust had dropped to 53%. Trust in the media, which has averaged 45% since 1997, has not reached the majority level since 2003.

After hitting its lowest point in 2016, trust in the media rebounded, gaining 13 points in two years — mostly because of a surge among Democrats amid President Donald Trump’s antagonistic relationship with the press and increased scrutiny of his administration by the media. Since 2018, however, it has fallen a total of nine points, as trust has slid among all party groups.

Democrats’ Trust In Media Dwarfed Republicans’ And Independents’

The October 2021 poll found:

Partisans’ trust in the media continues to be sharply polarized. Currently, 68% of Democrats, 11% of Republicans and 31% of independents say they trust the media a great deal or fair amount. The 57-point gap in Republicans’ and Democrats’ confidence is within the 54- to 63-point range for the two groups since 2017.

While both Democrats’ and independents’ trust has slid five points over the past year, Republicans’ has held steady.

Historically, Republicans’ confidence in the accuracy and fairness of the news media’s reporting has not risen above 52% over the past quarter century. At the same time, Democrats’ confidence has not fallen below the 2016 reading of 51%. For their part, independents’ trust in the media has not been at the majority level since 2003.


Partisans’ trust in the mass media when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately and fairly, since 1997. In 2021, 68% of Democrats, 31% of independents and 11% of Republicans have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the mass media. Republicans’ trust is one percentage point higher than the previous low, recorded last year. Democrats’ trust is now eight points lower than their highest on record, from 2018, and independents’ trust is one point higher than their record low.

Bottom Line

Just as U.S. citizens’ trust in the three branches of government is faltering, so too is their confidence in the fourth estate — the media. Confidence in the media among Republicans over the past five years is at unprecedented lows. After a brief recovery in trust among Democrats and independents early in the Trump administration, their trust has fallen off a little in recent years. Democratic trust remains well above where it was before Trump came into office and made attacks on the media a core message of his presidency.


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