Americans now trust television and print media about as much as they do the Internet, which is to say, not very much.
The latest edition of a Gallup poll that tracks confidence in media follows a decades-long trend that shows a declining faith in television and print news. The percentage of Americans that have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the three media formats now hover around one-fifth.
Twenty-two percent of respondents trust newspapers, 19 percent trust web-based news sites, and 18 percent say they trust TV. All three of those numbers are within the polls 4-point margin of error.
Faith in print media is down 29 points since its 1979 peak. TV peaked in 1993 with a 46 percent confidence rating. Oddly, Gallup hadn’t asked the question about the Internet since 1999, but the difference (from 21 percent then to 19 percent now) is statistically negligible.
While the numbers across all three venues are dreary, the trend lines are important. With the decline in faith comes a decline in traditional media’s ability to influence public opinion and political debate. If the trends continue (and it is hard to find a reason why they won’t), the Web would soon be the most influential media component in the national conversation.
Another interesting takeaway from this survey: Self-identified political conservatives trust in newspapers has tied its all-time low — 15 percent — while confidence among self-identified liberals, though still down over the last 10 years, is more than double that of conservatives: 34 percent.
Gallup does not say whether those that distrust newspapers actually read them.
There is, however, almost no split between liberals and conservatives when it comes to television — disdain for TV news spans the ideological divide.
You can trust us on that one.