Americans' distrust in the media hit a new high this year, with 60% saying they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.
Distrust is up from the past few years, when Americans were already more negative about the media than they had been in years prior to 2004.
The record distrust in the media, based on a survey conducted Sept. 6-9, 2012, also means that negativity toward the media is at an all-time high for a presidential election year. This reflects the continuation of a pattern in which negativity increases every election year compared with the year prior.
The current gap between negative and positive views -- 20 percentage points -- is by far the highest Gallup has recorded since it began regularly asking the question in the 1990s. Trust in the media was much higher and more positive than negative, in the years prior to 2004 -- as high as 72% when Gallup asked this question three times in the 1970s.
This year's decline in media trust is driven by independents and Republicans. The 31% and 26%, respectively, who express a great deal or fair amount of trust are record lows and are down significantly from last year. Republicans' level of trust this year is similar to what they expressed in the fall of 2008, implying that they are especially critical of election coverage.
Independents are sharply more negative compared with 2008, suggesting the group that is most closely divided between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney is quite dissatisfied with its ability to get fair and accurate news coverage of this election.
Americans tend to pay more attention to political news in presidential election years, and that is the case in 2012. However, Americans are less likely this year to be paying close attention to news about national politics than they were in 2008. The 39% who say they are paying close attention is up from last year -- when Americans were paying a high level of attention compared with other non-election years -- but down from 43% in September 2008.
Despite their record-low trust in media, Republicans are the partisan group most likely to be paying close attention to news about national politics, with the 48% who are doing so similar to the 50% in 2008 and up significantly from 38% in 2004. Independents and Democrats are less likely than Republicans to be paying close attention, with their levels of attention similar to 2008 and 2004.
On a broad level, Americans' high level of distrust in the media poses a challenge to democracy and to creating a fully engaged citizenry. Media sources must clearly do more to earn the trust of Americans, the majority of whom see the media as biased one way or the other. At the same time, there is an opportunity for others outside the "mass media" to serve as information sources that Americans do trust. gallup.com