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Trust in US news sources reflects partisan divide

News, 16 May 2017
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WASHINGTON: Six in ten US adults use social media for news, but trust in the medium is exceedingly low across supporters of both parties, while trust in traditional news organisations divides along partisan lines, Pew Research Center figures show.

This is according to a new online survey conducted in March among 4,151 US adults who are members of Pew Research Center's nationally representative American Trends Panel.

Though Americans have a heavy reliance on social media for news – national, local, and personal – just 5% of web-using US adults place a lot of trust in the information they find there, practically flat on the 4% who said so in 2016. Just 37% of respondents said they placed any trust in social media.

However, few respondents expressed strong trust in news, even from professional news organisations. Though 72% of the sample placed some trust in news organisations, just a fifth said they rely on them "a lot".

Despite local news being seen as more trustworthy (85% expressing some trust), it is still a minority (25%) that places a high degree of trust in local organisations. Fewer still (15%) place a lot of trust in what their friends and family say.

Elsewhere, the study finds news consumers deeply divided along partisan lines, notably in trust of national news: around a third of Democrats (34%) expressed a lot of trust in national news organisations, compared to just 11% of Republicans.

Nonetheless, news organizations remain the most frequent source for online news and also experienced the largest increase from 2016, among Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

Prior to the Pew figures, Gallup registered a "new low" in American's trust in mass media, as figures showed particular scepticism among Republicans.

In January, the Economist Intelligence Unit downgraded the US from a "full' democracy to a "flawed' one, as its Democracy Index acknowledged widespread distrust of institutions in the US.

"Popular trust in government, elected representatives, and political parties has fallen to extremely low levels in the US," the authors wrote, "this has been a long-term trend".

Data sourced from Pew Research Center, Gallup, Economist Intelligence Unit; additional content by WARC staff

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