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Are ‘Fake News’ and Opinion-Based Cable TV Restoring Trust in Newspapers?

June 29, 2017

Despite, or maybe because of, ongoing controversy over “fake news” online, more Americans in a new Gallup poll say they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers — 27 percent this year, up from 2016’s record low of 20 percent. Still, public confidence in newspapers remains below its typical levels in the 1980s and 1990s and, even then, it wasn’t high. In the last 30 years of Gallup surveys, the highest level of confidence people have expressed in newspapers was 39 percent, in 1990.

Today, Americans are no more confident in television news than in newspapers, although trust in both media has risen slightly. Even as the line between news and opinion blurs on cable networks, 24 percent of U.S. adults surveyed profess confidence in television news, up from a record low of 18 percent in 2014, but about half of the 46 percent when Gallup first asked the question in 1993. Americans have less confidence in online news (16 percent) than they do in newspapers or television news, Gallup finds.

Back when just a few national newspapers existed, along with local papers and a handful of television news channels, Americans may have found it easier to trust those institutions. Now, internet news sites have proliferated, and many of them try to increase traffic by appealing to only one side of the political spectrum or the other. — Greg Beaubien

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