Liberals and Conservatives can finally agree on something: TV news is untrustworthy. According to a Gallup annual poll released Tuesday, only 21 percent of American adults express “a great deal of confidence” in television news. That number is down from last year’s 27 percent and marks a new low in Americans’ confidence since Gallup started tracking the category in 1993—back when 46 percent of Americans trusted our news networks. This year, confidence dropped across subgroups, regardless of age, gender, political beliefs or education. The only exception was adults with some college education, whose confidence remained the same at 20 percent.
In its report, Gallup emphasizes that the survey was conducted between June 7 and 10 of this year, weeks before both CNN and Fox News aired the erroneous report that the Supreme Court had found the Affordable Healthcare Act unconstitutional. Gallup suggests that the Obamacare screwup probably further soured Americans to TV news.
“Americans’ negativity likely reflects the continuation of a broader trend that appeared to enjoy only a brief respite last year,” Gallup writes in its report. “Americans have grown more negative about the media in recent years, as they have about many other U.S. institutions and the direction of the country in general.”
In the past, conservatives have tended to be more skeptical of TV news than liberals and moderates. But in the past year liberals’ and moderates’ numbers plummeted as well, putting them on about an even plane with conservatives. Last year, 30 percent of liberals and 30 percent of moderates said that they had a “great deal” of confidence in the TV news, while only 18 percent of conservatives expressed the same amount of confidence. This year, liberals and moderates fell to 19 percent and 20 percent, respectively, while the proportion of conservatives who said they were confident in TV news rose slightly to 22 percent. Interestingly, those who identify themselves as Democrats have the most confidence of any of the subgroups in television news this year.
But don’t worry, news anchors of the world, Americans don’t really trust newspapers either. Of the 16 U.S. institutions tested, newspapers took 10th place in the race for Americans’ confidence, with TV news following in 11th.
The poll comes at a time when TV news ratings are in free fall: CNN is down 35 percent in total viewers from the same period last year (although it’s hard to compete with 2011, whose second quarter saw major news events like the Royal Wedding and the killing of Osama Bin Laden). HBO’s Newsroom, whose plot centers on a fictional TV news show struggling to earn Americans’ viewership as well as their trust, earned itself 2.2 million viewers for its third episode on Sunday. Perhaps the next season, Aaron Sorkin will write this disheartening Gallup poll into the show.