Americans’ confidence in television news is at a new low by one percentage point, with 21% of adults expressing a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in it. This marks a decline from 27% last year and from 46% when Gallup started tracking confidence in TV news in 1993.
The findings are from Gallup’s annual update on confidence in U.S. institutions, conducted June 7-10 this year. As such, the findings preceded the erroneous initial reports by cable-news networks CNN and Fox News regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6/28 decision about the constitutionality of the U.S. healthcare law.
Among 16 U.S. institutions tested, television news ranks 11th, following newspapers in 10th place. The 25% of adults who express a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in newspapers is down slightly from 28% last year. Confidence in newspapers is now half of what it was at its peak of 51% in 1979.
This year’s updates mark a setback from last year for both television news and newspapers, when Americans appeared to be regaining some confidence in these institutions, though they are more in line with 2007-2010 readings.
Liberals and moderates lost so much confidence in television news this year — 11 and 10 points, respectively — that their views are now more akin to conservatives’ views. This marks a turnaround from the pattern seen since 2009, in which liberals expressed more confidence than conservatives. Conservatives’ views of television news were last similar to liberals’ in June 2008, before the last presidential election. However, moderates are significantly less confident now than they were then, 20% vs. 28%.
The decline since last year in confidence in television news among liberals did not coincide with a similar decline among Democrats. Democrats this year are the most confident in the television news media among key subgroups. Interestingly, postgraduates, who tend to be Democrats, are now the least confident.
Many of the groups that lost confidence in television news also tended to lose confidence in newspapers, though to a lesser degree. These include liberals, older Americans, men, and postgraduates. Other groups budged only slightly.
It is not clear precisely why Americans soured so much on television news this year compared with last. Americans’ negativity likely reflects the continuation of a broader trend that appeared to enjoy only a brief respite last year. 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.
Still, confidence in television news could plummet further after the high-profile errors CNN and Fox News made in their coverage of the intensely anticipated Supreme Court healthcare law ruling that some have called a “Dewey defeats Truman” moment. CNN has promised an internal review, and its handling of the outcome of that review could help to bolster confidence. More broadly, these and other networks — and the news media as a whole — will have to renew their efforts to show Americans that they deserve a higher level of confidence than what they enjoy today.