News and Commentary

Americans Trust ‘Non-Mainstream’ News Sources As Much As ‘Mainstream’: Survey
Man reading newspaper.
David Sacks via Getty Images

The American people put as much trust in news outlets that are not part of the “mainstream media” as they do in “mainstream” organizations, a new survey has found.

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, the poll showed Democrats are far more likely to trust the mainstream media than Republicans, as well.

The Pew Research Center asked Americans to name the primary media source they relied on for news and whether they viewed it as part of the mainstream media. They then asked how trustworthy news consumers found that outlet’s coverage.

The dueling media landscapes came out in a virtual tie: 41% of those who had a “great deal of trust” in their favorite media source said it was not part of the “mainstream media,” while 42% said it was “mainstream.”

The survey also revealed that Democrats are almost twice as likely to trust the mainstream media as Republicans. While 66% of Americans of all political views relied on a “mainstream” source (53% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats), big fissures began to develop when asked about whether they could believe what they saw, heard, or read.

“Republicans who say their main political news source is part of the mainstream media are far less likely to have a great deal of trust in it than those who say it is not part of the mainstream (24% vs. 46%),” reported Pew. “Among Democrats, by contrast, those who see their main source as part of the mainstream are more likely than those who don’t to have a great deal of trust in it (53% vs. 34%).”

The poll’s definition of “mainstream media” may conceal some support for conservative news outlets, as well. Pew allowed each individual to decide whether his news provider should be described as “mainstream” — leading to a significant disagreement about who deserves readers’ belief and deference. “Those who use HuffPost for political news are about twice as likely as those who don’t to say the outlet is part of the mainstream news media (66% vs. 34%),” Pew reported. “And about a third of those who use Newsmax for political news say it is part of the mainstream media (31%), compared with just 10% of those who don’t use it for news.”

The survey results track with previous polls that found the vast majority of Americans embrace the “idea that the more facts people have, the closer they will get to the truth.” American readers are less concerned with the organization presenting the facts than they are the quality of the content — which may explain Americans’ profound lack of trust in the U.S. media.

Americans ranked dead last out of 46 nations in the amount of confidence they place in media coverage, according to a recent poll. Nearly as many Americans strongly disagree that they trust the media (23%) as trust the media (29%), according to a survey released last month by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford.

Their hesitancy may result from the media’s wild fluctuations in coverage based on which party holds the White House, such as their changing position on COVID-19’s origins, or it could stem from the media repeating baseless conspiracy theories. But the Associated Press blamed its readers for their crisis of confidence, lamenting the fact that “not all Americans universally embrace core journalism values.” (Another way of expressing the same thought is: “The legacy media do not embrace core American values.”)

The poll raises several intriguing questions about our media environment: If a media outlet has a sizable following and presents credible news, when does it become mainstream? If “mainstream” news organizations lose viewers at breakneck speed because they continually present (to coin a phrase) fake news, when are they relegated to the fringes where they deserve and replaced by other outlets as the national mainstream?

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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