The latest on trust of the media, via thinkprogress.

trust survey results

From their post:

The Harris results reflect the findings of a Harvard University study conducted last year, which found “nearly two-thirds of Americans do not trust campaign coverage by the news media.” A few other recent surveys offer some explanation for the public’s distrust:

– Two thirds of Americans – 67% – believe traditional journalism is out of touch with what Americans want from their news.

– The harshest indictments of the press come from the growing segment that relies on the internet as its main source for news. The internet news audience is particularly likely to criticize news organizations for their lack of empathy, their failure to “stand up for America,” and political bias.

– Democrats, Republicans and independents have decreased confidence in the accuracy of media reports on the war.

Imagine – people not trusting the media! I notice that, as well as being the least-trusted, “the press” has the least uncertainty. It’s quite possible that this is because it has the greatest exposure: not everyone listens to the radio or uses the internet. Television, not so sure (I don’t own one).

Television and Radio are interesting ones, for trust: given the might of Clear Channel and the rightness (political-wing-wise) of talk-back radio, is this such a good thing? Same for Television news. If this is Fox News and CNN viewers, we’re dead.

Methodologically, according to Businesswire, the numbers are “… the results of a nationwide Harris Poll of 2,302 U.S. adults surveyed online between January 15 and 22, 2008.” Now there are nationwide surveys and then there are nationally representative surveys.

Harris’ responses were as follows (click for larger version):

media use table

I can’t say that I’m a fan of the web-use question: that is so far from how the average web/news person actually gathers “news” from the internet that it isn’t funny.

Getting back to survey methodology. According to the company itself,

Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Which is quite responsible of them.

The missing pieces of information (for me): what were the levels of trust/distrust conditional upon use? I.e. if you’re a Rarely/Never kind of user, should your trust/mistrust be jumbled in with the Often/Occasionally people? While it is, of course, entirely likeky that one rarely or never uses a medium because of mistrust (part of my non-tv-ownership, but only part; my mistrust also of newspapers is, of course, no secret), low use also makes one a poor judge – even ignoring the response bias of a non-user.

Odds are that, given you’re here at this blog, you probably don’t see yourself represented in this survey at all. Which is a shame.


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