'Mainstream' Media Credibility Crisis: Gallup Finds 60 Percent Have Little or No Trust in 'MSM'

As the media report on the allegedly horrid polls for Mitt Romney, will they take the time to report the latest on their own poll ratings with Gallup? “Americans' distrust in the media hit a new high this year, with 60% saying they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.”

Can the media call themselves “mainstream” when Republicans and independents tell pollsters they don’t trust them right in the midst of a fall campaign? And shouldn’t the Commission on Presidential Debates stop relying on a monopoly of “mainstream” media personalities to moderate fall debates? Here’s the ugly breakdown on trust:

Only 26 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of independents have a “great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the media. Naturally, considering the tilt of their reporting, 58 percent of Democrats have a “great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the media. This might explain why these "objective" media prefer to oversample Democrats in their polls.

"Distrust is especially up from the past few years, when Americans were already more negative about the media than they had been in years prior to 2004," Gallup said. This ought to be perceived as punishment for the media’s ridiculous over-selling of Barack Obama’s promise in 2008. As Gallup added:

The record distrust in the media, based on a survey conducted Sept. 6-9, 2012, also means that negativity toward the media is at an all-time high for a presidential election year. This reflects the continuation of a pattern in which negativity increases every election year compared with the year prior. The current gap between negative and positive views -- 20 percentage points -- is by far the highest Gallup has recorded since it began regularly asking the question in the 1990s. Trust in the media was much higher, and more positive than negative, in the years prior to 2004 -- as high as 72% when Gallup asked this question three times in the 1970s.

Will anyone in the “mainstream” media actually see these polling numbers as a crisis? Or will they continue to dismiss these numbers, lamenting that viewers not only pick the media that supports their views?

That would be wrong, if you track this Gallup poll. “Despite their record-low trust in media, Republicans are the partisan group most likely to be paying close attention to news about national politics, with the 48% who are doing so similar to the 50% in 2008 and up significantly from 38% in 2004.”

Gallup concludes that the door may be opening for citizens to abandon the Old Media:

On a broad level, Americans' high level of distrust in the media poses a challenge to democracy and to creating a fully engaged citizenry. Media sources must clearly do more to earn the trust of Americans, the majority of whom see the media as biased one way or the other. At the same time, there is an opportunity for others outside the "mass media" to serve as information sources that Americans do trust.

It's time for the American public to start watching the news media not as a source of information, but watching it like a political disease, to make sure it doesn't spread.

Despite all their lecturing about how Washington doesn't work, journalists take zero responsibility for how they have built cowardice into the political system by threatening to destroy politicians who propose hard solutions like spending cuts. They can't even accurately present "cuts" as reductions in the expected increase over time. And  how can the media say there's too much negativity in campaign rhetoric and advertisements without evaluating the negativity in their own product?

For much more on how the public assesses the media, check out the MRC’s “Media Bias 101: What Journalists Really Think -- and What the Public Thinks About the Media.”

It features a rundown of Gallup Polls on Media Bias within the “How the Public Views the Media” section.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis