The latest Trust Barometer report from Edelman offers a stark picture of Americans’ confidence in today’s mass media organizations. Edelman, a global communications firm, published their 2017 report last month and found the 2016 election likely had a damaging effect on the public’s trust in mass media. Their report surveyed over 700 voters; including independents.
Media Trust Falls
Edelman’s barometer reveals public trust in the media has dropped from 40 percent before the 2016 election to 35 percent following the election.
Both Trump and Clinton voters declined by 6 percentage points. However, Trump voters began the election cycle with a significantly higher level of distrust than Clinton voters. The trust level among Trump supporters dropped from 21% to 15% following the election. While Clinton supporters went from 57% before the election, to 51% after.
This trend seen in the Edelman report follows long-term findings from polling organizations like Gallup. Since 1997 American faith in mainstream mass media has declined and is still sinking to record lows. This phenomenon is seen across party lines. Over the last twenty years trust has declined by:
- 23% for Independents
- 27% for Republicans
- 13% for Democrats
The Fear Vote
In addition to the data collected on trust, Edelman did a comparison of fearfulness between Trump and Clinton voters. What they termed as the “Fear Vote” occurs when citizens vote out of distress and uncertainty for the current Economic and Societal state of being.
The significance behind the “Fear Vote” lies in how loss of trust ultimately perpetuates more fear, leading to a self-reinforcing cycle. This in turn establishes a ‘fear factor’ for candidates to more easily exploit through populism. A break in the cycle is nowhere in sight, but perhaps a new ethos in journalism will rebuild the ground that has been lost.