Blog: The Educated Reporter

Which News Sources Do Voters Trust?

Finally, there’s some proof for journalists that someone takes you seriously. Or at least more seriously than  Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart.

A USC Annenberg/Los Angeles Times Poll on Politics and the Press found that local TV news programs and newspapers were the most trusted sources for news, followed by national newspapers and PBS. 

“These findings underscore the need for well-trained journalists at every level,” says Geoffrey Cowan, USC University Professor and director of USC Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, in a press release. “For voters, local television and newspapers remain the top source for information. In addition, our questions document the growing use of digital and social media as a source for breaking news and analysis, especially among younger voters.”

Pollsters asked 1,009 registered voters to rank on a scale of 0 to 10 the credibility of various media outlets. While local TV news, print and online versions of local newspapers, and national newspapers scored 6.6, 6.2, and 6.0 respectively, radio and cable ratings juggernauts Limbaugh, Hannity, Colbert, and Stewart came in at just below 4.0.

The results clustered around predictable age groups. Older Americans were far more likely to rely on television for their news:Of those polled, 58 percent said they watch local television news daily. The figures for that group drop to 39 percent for local newspapers. Seventy percent of voters over 49 years of age were more likely to watch TV news; 50 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 49 felt the same way. Just one-fifth of registered voters under the age of 49 relied on tablets and smartphones for their news, though that age group relied much more heavily on news aggregators and Facebook. The social-networking giant is a source of news for a quarter of those polled.

The voters polled also think liberal viewpoints are more prominent in in media. Just 13 percent of those polled said the news they take in skews conservative, while 40 percent felt their news digest was too liberal.

Republicans tend to coalesce around ideologically friendly media than Democrats: 47 percent of Republicans (and half of conservatives) watch Fox News at least once a day, while 30 percent of Democrats consume a daily dose of MSNBC.

While national newspapers are among the more trusted sources of news content, they are not widely read, with just 16 percent of voters reading papers like USA Today, The New York Times, and Wall Street Journal daily.

Television still earns the most looks for political opinions, with 55 percent of voters saying they seek out television programs. Online sources came in at 35 percent, while 14 percent of those polled read newspapers for political opinions.

Do these results bring a sigh of relief or introduce new worries? 

Photo Source: Flickr/NS Newsflash