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Story Highlights

  • 36% in U.S. have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in mass media
  • 68% of Democrats, 31% of independents and 11% of Republicans trust media
  • Democrats’ and independents’ trust is down five points since 2020, GOP’s flat

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans’ trust in the media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly has edged down four percentage points since last year to 36%, making this year’s reading the second lowest in Gallup’s trend.

In all, 7% of U.S. adults say they have “a great deal” and 29% “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in newspapers, television and radio news reporting — which, combined, is four points above the 32% record low in 2016, amid the divisive presidential election campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In addition, 29% of the public currently registers “not very much” trust and 34% have “none at all.”

Line graph. Americans’ trust in the mass media when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately and fairly, since 1997. In 2021, 36% have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the mass media, and 63% have not very much or none at all. This is the lowest rating since 2016, when trust was 32%, the lowest on record.

These findings, from a Sept. 1-17 poll, are the latest in Gallup’s tracking of the public’s confidence in key U.S. institutions, which began in 1972. Between 1972 and 1976, 68% to 72% of Americans expressed trust in the mass media; yet, by 1997, when the question was next asked, trust had dropped to 53%. Trust in the media, which has averaged 45% since 1997, has not reached the majority level since 2003.

After hitting its lowest point in 2016, trust in the media rebounded, gaining 13 points in two years — mostly because of a surge among Democrats amid President Donald Trump’s antagonistic relationship with the press and increased scrutiny of his administration by the media. Since 2018, however, it has fallen a total of nine points, as trust has slid among all party groups.

Democrats’ Trust in Media Dwarfs Republicans’ and Independents’

Partisans’ trust in the media continues to be sharply polarized. Currently, 68% of Democrats, 11% of Republicans and 31% of independents say they trust the media a great deal or fair amount. The 57-point gap in Republicans’ and Democrats’ confidence is within the 54- to 63-point range for the two groups since 2017.

While both Democrats’ and independents’ trust has slid five points over the past year, Republicans’ has held steady.

Historically, Republicans’ confidence in the accuracy and fairness of the news media’s reporting has not risen above 52% over the past quarter century. At the same time, Democrats’ confidence has not fallen below the 2016 reading of 51%. For their part, independents’ trust in the media has not been at the majority level since 2003.

Line graph. Partisans’ trust in the mass media when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately and fairly, since 1997. In 2021, 68% of Democrats, 31% of independents and 11% of Republicans have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the mass media. Republicans’ trust is one percentage point higher than the previous low, recorded last year. Democrats’ trust is now eight points lower than their highest on record, from 2018, and independents’ trust is one point higher than their record low.

Bottom Line

Just as Americans’ trust in the three branches of government is faltering, so too is their confidence in the fourth estate — the media. Confidence in the media among Republicans over the past five years is at unprecedented lows. After a brief recovery in trust among Democrats and independents early in the Trump administration, their trust has fallen off a little in recent years. Democratic trust remains well above where it was before Trump came into office and made attacks on the media a core message of his presidency.

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Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

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