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Lack of trust and news avoidance means fewer follow the news closely

With just 7% saying they have “a great deal” of trust and confidence in media it is no surprise that Americans are following the news less closely than they were a few years ago, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. Other factors explaining this decline would also be the international news fatigue that is a main concern for publishers, according to Reuters Institutes annual survey of digital news. 

A Gallup report shows that 34% in the US trust in the mass media to report the news “fully, accurately and fairly” which is essentially unchanged from last year and just two points higher than the lowest that Gallup has recorded, in 2016 during the presidential campaign.

Just 7% of Americans have “a great deal” of trust and confidence in the media, and 27% have “a fair amount.” 

Meanwhile, 28% say they do not have very much confidence and 38% have none at all in newspapers, TV and radio. 

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“Notably, this is the first time that the percentage of Americans with no trust at all in the media is higher than the percentage with a great deal or a fair amount combined”, the Gallup report says.

The Pew research report shows that in 2016, 51% said they followed the news all or most of the time. But that share fell to 38% in 2022.

In turn, a rising share say they follow the news only now and then. While 12% of adults said this in 2016, that figure increased to 19% by 2022. And while 5% of adults said in 2016 that they hardly ever follow the news, 9% said the same last year.

Older adults are more likely to say they follow the news all or most of the time, while younger adults are less likely. However, all age groups have become less likely to say they follow the news all or most of the time since 2016.

“The recent decline in Americans’ attention to the news has occurred across demographic lines, including education, gender, race, ethnicity and political party affiliation. But the decline is still bigger among some groups than others”, the Pew report says.

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For example, the decrease has been particularly steep among Republicans, who also have become much less likely to trust information from national news organizations in recent years.

In 2016, 57% of Republicans and independents who lean Rep­­ublican said they followed the news all or most of the time. In the 2022 survey, 37% said the same, a decrease of 20 points. By comparison, the share saying this among Democrats and Democratic leaners dropped by only 7 points, from 49% to 42%.

Worrying news reports about the pandemic and now the Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to an increasing number of people avoiding the news. This is a conclusion of the Reuters Institute’s annual Digital News Report. 

“The need for reliable information, careful context, and considered debate has rarely been greater, but so too has the desire for stories that inspire and give hope of a better tomorrow”, the report says.

“While some individual news media have clearly been very successful at building online reach or convincing people to subscribe, and developed new offers across podcast, video, and newsletters, this year’s data show many publishers are still struggling to come to terms with structural changes that have been ravaging the industry for more than a decade”, the report concludes.

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“These challenges are compounded by the fraying connection that journalism and news media have with much of the public in many countries. More people are disconnected, interest in news is down, selective news avoidance up, and trust far from a given.”

“The Ukraine crisis, and before it the COVID-19 pandemic, have reminded people of the value of accurate and fair reporting that gets as close to the truth as possible, but we also find evidence that the overwhelming and depressing nature of the news, feelings of powerlessness, and toxic online debates are turning many people away – temporarily or permanently”, the Reuters Institute report says.

A recent report from the Institute says that diversifying newsrooms is widely viewed as important for increasing this trust.  Having representative journalists concerning political views and economic class backgrounds is often seen as more important for diversity than gender and racial/ethnic diversity.

80% of UK journalists have one parent in one of the three highest occupational groups,  a key indicator of class,  compared to 42% in the overall population, data from National Council for the Training of Journalists shows. 

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