Over the past three years, CivicScience has tracked a steady decrease in the number of adults saying they don’t trust any news source. In fact, trust in the news to deliver unbiased reporting is at its highest since 2017. You could say that a global crisis leading up to a presidential election might force folks to pick somewhere they trust to stay up to date. 

But mostly, the data indicate the steady rise in trust occurring before the pandemic or onset of political advertising. Filtering out those who reported not trusting any source to deliver unbiased news, it appears adults nationwide trust broadcast news the most. In 2017, broadcast news was only slightly ahead of local TV before dropping below both local TV and cable news networks in 2018. After some ups and downs, it came out on top and appears to still be increasing.

The people’s trust in local news is what decreased the most over the three-year period studied.

Demographic Breakdown of Trust in the News

Men distrust the news to deliver facts without a slant much more than women. Also, the younger someone is, the greater chance they have of distrusting news sources.

Older Americans (55+) seem to generate a significant amount of broadcast news’ popularity. A quarter of the over-55 crowd say they put their faith in broadcast more than any other news source. 

City folk report being the least trusting of news sources for information. If they do trust a news source, it’s likely to be broadcast media followed by cable news. Country dwellers (suburban and rural) share similar sentiments towards news sources, although people in the suburbs lean on broadcast news more than both city and rural inhabitants. 

A Confluence of Beliefs

Based on the data collected, one could say that trusting any news sources correlates with a rising concern about the pandemic. People skeptical of reporting from all news sources indicate the smallest increase of concern about the coronavirus in the past few weeks. 

The impact of the pandemic on job status reveals a curious imbalance in trust among workers diversely affected by its spread. It goes without saying that those who lost their job (or had hours or pay cut) as a result of the pandemic, find themselves in that position at no fault of their own. The impact of the pandemic has been widespread and difficult to contain. Yet, people whose jobs haven’t been affected (other than a shift to remote work) report significantly less trust in news sources than those who are working reduced hours or pay, or aren’t working at all.

If at first glance this seems extremely odd, consider this: wealthier Americans and those in certain kinds of jobs are less likely to suffer from salary or job loss due to the pandemic. Wealthier Americans (making $100K or more each year) report the most distrust in news reporting across the board.

All things considered, this week is an interesting one in which to look at trust in news media. Big headlines are coming in just a few days and we wondered where Americans would turn for breaking news. Among the general population who consider breaking news important, 22% will check out a national news website, 21% a local news channel, and 18% a national news channel and 18% a cable news channel.

And lastly, given there were major shifts in trust that occurred after the last general election, we took a quick look at the influence of political leanings. Is anyone surprised?