After the last few days of general media dumbassery over whether to link COVID-19 to its place of origin, I’m surprised it’s this high. A new poll from Axios conducted by Ipsos shows that only half of the country trusts the news about the coronavirus pandemic coming from traditional media outlets. They trust the CDC far more, and are not at all likely to trust the gossip culture on social media — all of which sounds like good news.
If you can trust it, that is. Doesn’t Ipsos and Axios qualify as online media, which only 47% trust? Hmmmm:
Roughly half the country says they don’t trust traditional media, like cable TV and newspapers, very much or at all to accurately deliver information about the novel coronavirus, according to a new Axios/Ipsos poll. That number sinks even lower for digital media and online news companies.
Why it matters: While the government and health officials are able to provide important safety and procedural information about the virus, it’s the role of the media to provide key research and analysis that enriches the public’s understanding. The lack of trust in the media means society could be less informed.
Details: Of all of the institutions polled, most people feel as though health officials, followed by government institutions, are most likely to provide accurate information about COVID-19.
Well, some government institutions, anyway. The CDC scores best in this poll, with 85% trusting what they say about the coronavirus outbreak. The World Health Organization (WHO), the only non-US entity on the list, scores a second-place 77%. State officials get a 70% rating, while local officials score 67%. However, federal government officials only engender trust among 53% of the population, just barely ahead of newspapers (51%) and cable outlets (50%).
In actuality, there’s not much difference in the medium when it comes to news sources. The spread between newspapers, cable, and online news outlets all fall roughly within the margin of error (±3.2%) and right around the 50% mark. That would be a stunning indictment of the nation’s news media if in fact it was anything new or worse than previously seen.
Actually, it’s a significant step up, at least from Gallup’s tracking on media credibility. Overall trust in media cratered in 2016 to 32%, and only rebounded to 41% last September, their most recent iteration of their polling on the topic:
Americans remain largely mistrustful of the mass media as 41% currently have “a great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in newspapers, television and radio to report the news “fully, accurately and fairly.” This latest reading represents a four-percentage-point dip since last year and marks the end of improvements in back-to-back years after hitting an all-time low. …
Gallup first measured trust in the mass media in a 1972 survey when 68% of Americans said they trusted it. Similar levels were recorded in 1974 (69%) and 1976 (72%), but two decades later, when Gallup next asked the question, trust had fallen to 53%.
Although overall trust was at the majority level until 2004, no more than 21% of Americans dating back to 1972 ever said they had the greatest level of trust. Currently, 13% have a great deal of trust, 28% a fair amount, 30% not very much and 28% none at all.
Here’s their chart from last year, showing that the most recent time trust in media hit 50% was when George W. Bush ran for a second term:
Note too that there was no post-9/11 bump in media trust either, at least not long enough to be captured by Gallup’s polling. (There appears to be a polling gap of three-plus years around that period.) That means that the coronavirus crisis isn’t going to present media with a new burst of trust from its consumers. They will have to find a way to earn it. The new data from Axios and Ipsos doesn’t look promising in that regard.
However, perhaps demonstrations of solidarity like this will help. Savannah Guthrie followed the advice that her network has been giving out after getting some symptoms of a cold and is now working from home, which is admittedly a lot easier to do when you work for NBC and have room for a basement studio. Still, it’s at least a demonstration of non-hypocrisy that might make viewers just a little more open to what Today tells them. Unless they watch this clip on social media, of course.
Things look a little different for us this morning. @savannahguthrie wasn’t feeling her best, so in an abundance of caution and to model the vigilance the CDC has asked of all of us, she followed the advice of NBC’s medical team and is working from home. pic.twitter.com/kAszjLblS0
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) March 18, 2020