Do you trust what politicians say? How about the news organizations that report on what they say? Or, for that matter, how much do you trust the information you get from Congress, your state government, federal agencies, or the White House? Which voices do you trust—or distrust?
The voices we trust was the starting point of a small-group dialog on Civil Discourse that I described in Monday’s column. We actually know a lot about the voices Americans trust, courtesy of the Pew Research Center. Since 1985, they’ve tracked opinions about trust in the information we get from various sources. Trust is down in almost all sources of information, but there are big differences by source.
Who don’t we trust? Candidates running for office. Over two-thirds (68%) of Americans say they don’t trust this source. Our elected officials don’t fare much better. Almost six of ten (59%) say they don’t trust the information they get from Congress. The majority of Americans don’t trust the information they get from business corporations or federal agencies. The White House fares a bit better, but 48% of Americans don’t trust the Obama administration either.
Who do we trust? Only two of the eight institutions on Pew’s list got positive responses from a majority of Americans. A slight majority (51%) trusts information from state government, 59% trust information from national news organizations—and the biggest majority (69%) goes to local news organizations.
What do we think of news media? National and local news organizations may be more trusted than other sources, but negative evaluations of the press have grown sharply since 1985. Back then, only 34% said news stories were often inaccurate; today, two-thirds (66%) feel that way. In 1985, a small majority (53%) said that the press tends to favor one side; now, three-quarters (77%) feel that way. And, today a very large majority of Americans (80%) feel the press is often influenced by powerful people and organizations, up from 53% in 1985.
Pew finds, however, that Americans have much more favorable opinions of the news organizations that they usually rely on. Only 25% say that news organizations in general get the facts straight, but 62% say the news organizations they use the most get the facts straight.
Which institutions do you trust?
Which don’t you trust?
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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue.