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  • Writer's pictureChris Moore

Americans Distrust of Mass Media, and a Whole Lot More


The word "fake news" repeated on a screen with a magnifying glass

E Pluribus Unum – “out of many, one” – was first featured on the original 1776 design of the Great Seal of the United States and was formally adopted by the U.S. Congress as our nation's official motto in 1782. The Latin phrase reminds us that from the original Thirteen Colonies emerged a single nation.


A rather strange opening sentence related to the lack of trust of trust of mass media. We’ll come back to this.

  • 32% of Americans who say they trust the mass media “a great deal” or “a fair amount” to report the news in a full, fair, and accurate way.

  • 29% of U.S. adults have “not very much” trust.

  • 39% register “none at all.”

Gallup first asked this question in 1972 and has tracked it nearly every year since 1997. Trust ranged from 68% to 72% in three readings in the 1970s, and though it had declined by the late 1990s, it remained at the majority level until 2004, when it fell to 44%. After rebounding slightly to 50% in 2005, it has not risen above 47% since.


Let go a step further and look at the issue from a political perspective.


2022 statistics:

1.      Great Deal/Fair Amount of trust

a. Republicans 12%

b.     Independents 27%

c.      Democrats 70%

2.      Not Much trust

a.      Republicans 29%

b.      Independents 32%

c.      Democrats 19%

3.      No trust

a.      Republicans 57%

b.      Independents 41%

c.      Democrats 10%


This is NOT intended as a political review; the partisan levels of trust have been included as a reference only. If you care to look at a review of mass media outlets rated by political bias, click here.


The underlying political problems are compounding and appear to be fueling the general lack of trust of mass media.


If the lack of trust in mass media alone was the problem, it may be simpler to resolve. When you add in the political element it gets tougher.


Politicians and political activists are the most frequently cited source of news media criticism among those reporting any level of exposure in general, with 42% saying this is who they have seen or heard criticism from in the last year.


The same media outlets politicians and activists are criticizing are also responsible for inundating the public by continually airing, replaying, and reposting the criticism. Media outlets aligned with the political viewpoint create a barrage on the topic, then comes the inevitable counter point of view media storm from media outlets aligned with the opposition.


Think about why, other than touting their political flag, ….ratings. Higher ratings, higher cost for advertising. This is not difficult to figure out.


Now, one additional dimension….


Our trust in each other is getting worse! The following quote was featured in the article, “Trust and Distrust in America” from the Pew Research Center. 


“Moreover, some see fading trust as a sign of cultural sickness and national decline. Some also tie it to what they perceive to be increased loneliness and excessive individualism. About half of Americans (49%) link the decline in interpersonal trust to a belief that people are not as reliable as they used to be. Many ascribe shrinking trust to a political culture they believe is broken and spawns suspicion, even cynicism, about the ability of others to distinguish fact from fiction.” - RAINIE, KEETER, AND PERRIN


Excessive individualism. That may be the most accurate, understated explanation of our culture I have ever heard. Now go back to the opening sentence. It took less than 250 years to go from E Pluribus Unum to excessive individualism. And the scariest part, to me, is the rate of increase is exponential not linear.


Who’s really to blame. In my opinion, we are. We have allowed politicians to convince us THEY have all the right answers and are our only hope to set things right. We have permitted the media to sensationalize these windbags, from both sides, by continually watching and listening to them play, replay and repost the same stories, frequently for days. Now add the fact that we no longer trust each other. Are these 3 independent but similar problems or is it one multifaceted issue? You decide.


Many historians point to 3 main reasons for the fall of Rome which are,


1.      Political instability

2.      Economic and social problems

3.      A weakening of the frontier or border

 

Winston Churchill said, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

 

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