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News > World

Study: Democrats Trust the Media, Republicans Don't

  • A New York Post issue featuring the 2016 U.S. presidential election as its headline along with other magazines at a New York magazine stand.

    A New York Post issue featuring the 2016 U.S. presidential election as its headline along with other magazines at a New York magazine stand. | Photo: Reuters

Published 6 December 2017

Republicans have shown a steady decline in media trust while Democrats are at a historic high.

According to a new study, U.S. citizens are split along party lines in their trust in the mainstream press.

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The research was presented during a journalistic ethics summit organized by the Poynter Institute. Organizers highlighted the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has called the media the “enemy of the American people”, in their summit which discussed how to adapt to attacks from the administration.

Several panels which were joined by academics, journalists, and advocates alike were titled “Avoiding the ‘Enemy of the People’ Trap: Covering the President without Politicizing the Press” and “The Press and the President: Trust and the Media in a New Era.”

One of the study’s co-authors, Brendan Nyhan who is a professor of government at Dartmouth College, pointed to a decades-long trend in the political right where trust in the press is on a steady decline.“The bad news is the stabilities of these attitudes,” Nyhan said, referring to this decline in trust “means they are likely to be here long after Trump leaves the political scene.”

Other studies have corroborated Nyhan’s findings. Research conducted by Edelman, a public relations firm, found in their “Trust Barometer” that 15% of Trump voters trusted the media to do what was right, while 51% of Clinton voters affirmed trust in the media.

In response to this trend, those participating in the ethics summit weighed in on how to ‘win back’ Republicans by fostering trust and countering the president’s attacks.

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Matt Gertz, who attended the summit, wrote in a blog post featured on Media Matters for America:

“Good luck trying to make your media literacy campaign heard when the president is calling you liars. Good luck trying to target your message of transparency to whatever Republicans might be amenable to it when Fox is calling you fake news. You can try winning over the anti-Trump Republicans, but the lesson of the last few years is that they are an extremely limited constituency.”

Many believe this distrust can be attributed to not only the amount of coverage centered around Trump’s controversial presidency but also the waves of criticism against Trump. However, this does not explain the gradual decline that preceded the age of Trump.  

In contrast, Democrats are at a historic level of trust. Following a partistan assault on alternative media outlets labeled “Russian propaganda”, analysts suggest that Democrats may have found a new appreciation for the U.S. media.

Despite the deep partisan divide over trust, droves of research suggest impropriety within the U.S. media and an implicit bias toward corporate and U.S. foreign policy interests.


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