27 January 2010

Media Trust Highly Partisan

One of the reasons it is hard to have a civil discourse in the political sphere is that the American public is nowhere close to having a shared trust in those providing the facts that inform that discussion.

Conservatives deeply distrust all mainstream media news sources other than the Fox network. Two-thirds distrust them, and one in five to one in seven of them trust them (depending on the particular network). Three-quarters of conservatives, however, trust Fox News.

At least half of liberals trust all TV networks other than Fox, while only a quarter trust Fox News.

Moderates trust non-Fox News outlets more often than the distrust them, and distrust Fox News more than they trust it.

Cognitive dissonance is alive and well!

Conservative Trust Of Media Outlets (Yes/No)--PPP Poll 1/26/10

FOX NEWS: 75/13
CNN: 22/60
ABC NEWS: 16/67
NBC NEWS: 15/66
CBS NEWS: 14/68 . . .

Liberal Trust of Media Outlets (Yes/No)--PPP Poll 1/26/10

NBC NEWS: 64/22
CNN: 63/21
CBS NEWS: 56/29
ABC NEWS: 50/31
FOX NEWS: 26/66 . . .

Moderate Trust of Media Outlets (Yes/No)--PPP Poll 1/26/10

CNN: 47/31
NBC NEWS: 44/33
CBS NEWS: 41/33
ABC NEWS: 39/34
FOX NEWS: 33/48

CNN is as close to any of the networks to middle ground. It has the most support from moderates and is tied for highest trust less distrust numbers among liberal, while coming in second place among five major TV news networks among conservatives.

This is rather frightening as CNN's news coverage is really dismal and has gone far downhill from its early hay day. I don't expect any network other than Fox News to lie to me, but trust CNN less than any of the old big three networks.

Then again, who I am to say anything. I simply don't watch TV news outside airports, at least not if I can help it. I get my news from newspapers, radio (mostly public radio), magazines and the Internet. I trust the Associated Press, Reuters, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Denver Post, National Public Radio, the BBC, the Economist, the Financial Times, Science News, and a great many other sources more than I do television news for most things I want to know.

Almost all TV news is generally too vapid for my taste, and their timing is inconvenient. TV News is under too much time pressure, and too much pressure to simplify issues for their audiences to tell enough of the story for me to be comfortable that I know what I should know. Every once in a while, for example, in the wake of Haiti's recent earthquake, it would be nice to have the on the scene visuals and sound that TV news done right can provide. But, usually, it simply isn't worth the trouble.

Alas, this still matters. A lot of people, and a significant share of voters, get all their news from television and often get all of their news from a single news network.

I believe in a politics built around shared purpose where there is wide agreement (even if not total agreement) that flows from a common understanding of the situation, whenever possible. My instinct is to look for common ground and constructive solutions that may not be in the spotlight, rather than looking for intense fights around hot button issues.

But, it is hard to see how we get to a politics that takes that approach until we can break down the perception gap that divides us politically. I'm not sure how that can be managed. It probably won't be with rational analysis. Trust is fundamentally an emotional and social issue.

Yet, I don't believe that it has to be this way. I never believe that deconstructionist theorists who argue that this is no such thing as neutrality or truth. Our nation has had more of a common perception of reality in the past, and it can do so again. Not every nation is divided over these basics as we seem to be in the United States. And, if we find some common ground we can help our nation to make more positive progress.

1 comment:

Michael Malak said...

The good news is that a third of the population doesn't trust any television news. Now if we can just reach out to the other two-thirds, we might be able to reach the informed populace that Thomas Jefferson said was necessary for democracy.