Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Shallow versus deep research about how much Americans trust their mass media

On December 26th Jane Genova spat out yet another shallow blog post titled Media - Trust Down to 32% (Source: Gallup). She linked to their September 14, 2016 article titled Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low. But Jane didn’t bother to tell us  the question, dig into the detailed results, or comment on what they really meant. Here is what Jane missed by barely scratching the surface.

Gallup had repeatedly asked the following question:

“In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the mass media -- such as newspapers, T.V. and radio -- when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately, and fairly -- a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?”

The summary statistic they had reported was the percent for a great deal plus a fair amount.

The infographic shown above portrays one result from 2016 - only 8% of us had a Great Deal of trust, while another 24% just had a Fair Amount of trust, for a total of 32%. What about the past decade? (Gallup also has data from 1997 to 2005, but none for 2006).

A table shown above lists Gallup results for the past decade by all four poll categories:

None at All = 1
Not Very Much = 2
Fair Amount = 3
Great Deal = 4

Back in 2007 only 47% (less than half of us) had either a Great Deal or a Fair Amount of trust, and since then it generally has been dropping. In 2010 just 12%, or one of eight, had a Great Deal of trust and it has been even lower in the other nine years. We didn’t really trust the media very much over that time period. 

How did party affiliation affect that drop from 40% in 2015 to 32% in 2016? Independents went from 33% to 30%. Democrats went from 55% to 51%. But Republicans went from 32% to only 14%. That’s an 18% drop that accounts for most of the overall 8% drop. 

There is another way to look at those poll results, by calculating a Trust Score using the formula (similar to a Fear Score):

Trust Score = [ 1x(% for None at All)
 + 2x(% for Not Very Much)
3x(% for Fair Amount)
 + 4x(% for Great Deal)]/100

Another table shows the Trust Score, which has has dropped from just 2.37 in 2007 (less than halfway up from Not Very Much to a Fair Amount) to only 2.13 in 2016.

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