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Independents Reflect Trust in Television News Media Trends

by Alex Gauthier, published

Rob Wilson / Rob Wilson /

Public Policy Polling published the results of its 4th Annual TV News Trust Poll on Wednesday after surveying 800 voters regarding their trust of various leading television news networks. The study was conducted from January 31 to February 3.

Findings suggested a significant disparity in trust of media organizations based on party affiliation. Nine major networks were included in the survey: ABC, CBS, CNN, Comedy Central, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, and PBS. Tweet Poll: Tweet

Out of the eight biggest television news sources, only PBS received a plurality of respondents -- 52 percent --  answering yes to the question, "Do you trust PBS, or not?" Tweet stat: Tweet

However, this does not mean that both Democrats and Republicans trust PBS. The results merely show that an overwhelming number -- 72 percent -- of Democrats and 51 percent of independents/other viewed the news organization as trustworthy.

Only 27 percent of Republican respondents said they trusted PBS. Likewise, the disparity between non-Republican leaning voters and Romney supports was the highest regarding PBS, a 54 percent divide in trustworthiness.

Despite more than 50 percent of respondents trusting PBS, all of the news networks were noticeably divided along party lines and who respondents voted for in the 2012 election.

Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling, said:

“We continue to find that Democrats trust most TV news sources other than Fox, while Republicans don’t trust anything except Fox. News preferences are very polarizing along party lines.” Tweet finding: Tweet

One thing there seemed to be some agreement on was that Comedy Central was not the most trustworthy source for news. Republicans, Democrats, and independents/other all ranked the television station lower on the 'most trusted' list. However, it was ranked slightly higher for independents.

source: Public Policy Polling

source: Public Policy Polling

Paradoxically, Fox News was both the most distrusted and trusted single TV news outlet. This phenomenon was also reflected by the attitude of independent respondents.

Fox News was the most trusted television news outlet for respondents claiming independent or other party affiliation at 32 percent. Yet, most of these respondents -- 44 percent -- reported they trust Fox News the least.

This trend is seen when looking at the larger picture as well. Thirty-four percent of all participants in the survey said Fox News was the TV news outlet they trust the most. Yet, when asked the opposite, 39 percent responded that Fox News was the least trustworthy of the eight news networks.

Although the study did not try to prove what possible causes accounted for these findings, it seems that at least some degree of ideological isolationism is taking place. Looking past the individual networks, none of the major news outlets were reported as trustworthy by more than 55 percent of respondents. Tweet stat: Tweet

It seems that, aside from the pressing fiscal and economic issues facing the nation, Americans are having difficulty reaching a trans-partisan consensus on which television news networks are trustworthy.

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