Australians trust the media less: Ipsos “Trust in the Media” study

Australians’ trust in traditional and digital media has declined over the past five years, due largely to the prevalence of fake news and doubts about media outlets’ intentions, according to the global “Trust in the Media“ study by Ipsos. We are, however, still one of the more trusting nations of our media channels.

The author(s)

  • David Elliott Director - PA
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In Australia over the past five years, trust in newspapers and magazines has had a net decline of 14%. That is, 28% have less trust now versus 14% who trust them more. Trust in TV and radio had a net decline in trust of 13%, while trust in online news websites and platforms had a net decline in trust of 9%. Globally, newspapers and magazines suffered the greatest net decline in trust of 16% alongside TV and radio (16%), followed by online news websites and platforms at 12% versus five years ago.

The study finds that people across 27 countries are divided on whether they trust traditional media (newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio). Globally, 49% trust TV and radio to be a reliable source of news and information, while 46% do not have much trust, or no trust at all. The picture is similar for newspapers and magazines - 47% trust them and 48% do not.

Trust in traditional media in Australia is much greater than the global average. More than half of Australians (57%) trust television and radio, with the majority (46%) saying they have a ‘fair amount of trust’ while 11% say they have ‘a great deal of trust’ in TV and radio. Four in ten (38%) don’t trust television and radio. For newspapers and magazines, the figures are similar with just over half (54%) trusting those mediums. The same number (46%) have a ‘fair amount of trust’ while 8% have ‘a great deal of trust’. Again, four in ten (41%) don’t trust newspapers and magazines.

Online websites and platforms are only slightly less trusted than traditional media (45% trust them, 50% distrust) at a global level. In Australia, 54% have a great deal or fair amount of trust in online websites and platforms while 40% don’t trust them.

At the same time, people believe that fake news is prevalent in the information they receive via different sources. At a global level, more than half (52%) believe there is a ‘great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ of fake news in newspapers and magazines, as well as on TV and radio. People are particularly skeptical of the information received by online news websites and platforms, with 62% globally saying that the information they provide contains a great deal or fair amount of fake news.

In Australia a slightly larger number (57%) believe there is a ‘fair to great extent of fake news’ in newspapers and magazines. For TV and radio, 54% say there is a prevalence of fake news. A greater number of Australians have less trust in online news sites and platforms, with 63% saying there is a ‘fair to great amount’ of fake news.

Another dimension of media trust is whether respondents think different sources act with good intentions when providing news and information. Overall, the percentage of people who believe that the media acts with good intentions is similar to current levels of trust. Exactly half of global respondents believe newspapers and magazines act with good intentions, and 52% agree when it comes to TV and radio, while slightly less, at 49%, agree for online news websites and platforms.

In Australia, the numbers are higher with just over half (55%) believing newspapers and magazines act with good intentions, 60% for TV and radio and 57% for online news websites and platforms.

Ipsos Australia Director, David Elliott, said: “While Australians’ trust in traditional and digital media has declined over the past five years, we are, however, still one of the more trusting nations of our media channels. The decline in trust looks to be driven by the prevalence of fake news and doubts about media outlets’ intentions. Interestingly there is not much gap between the trust that Australians have in traditional media and the trust they have in online news websites and platforms, although there was a greater perceived prevalence of fake news on the latter. Where the gap does exist is the trust we have for those we know predominatly through the internet versus those we know in person, with the latter being by far the most trusted as a reliable source of news and information."

“Encouragingly for our public broadcasters Australians are one of the nations who are more positively disposed toward our public broadcasters. We are one of only 10 nations to have more people trusting than distrusting their public broadcasters and are also more likely than most to believe they provide a necessary service; they offer quality programming; and to disagree they are obsolete. We are also one of the least likley to see them as overly elitist and bureaucratic. So clearly, Australians value and continue to see a role for public broadcasters such as the ABC and SBS.“

Other findings include:

  • Trust in media sources varies greatly across individual countries. For example, 71% in India and 68% in Malaysia trust TV and radio, compared to just 17% in Serbia. Country patterns remain fairly stable for trust in different news sources, with India, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and South Africa ranking among the highest, while Hungary, Serbia and Poland are often found among the lowest. Among Americans, levels of trust in media sources are in line with the global average (51% of Americans trust TV and radio, 52% for newspapers and magazines).
  • Perceived changes in trust of traditional media sources also vary by country. Though trust is perceived to have declined at the global level, this is not the case in all countries. In fact, people are now reporting higher trust levels in media in countries such as India and Saudi Arabia compared to five years ago. Meanwhile, trust is perceived to have declined most strongly in Serbia and Hungary. Americans are also reporting higher drops in trust of media sources, particularly when it comes to online media websites and platforms.
  • What benefits the most from this perceived change in media trust? Interpersonal relationships. Across the world, people are most trusting of news and information they receive from people they know in person. In Australia, 86% of people place a ‘great deal’ or ‘fair amount’ of trust in people they predominantly know in person. Furthermore, among sources of news and information, only personal relationships have grown in trustworthiness over the past five years and in Australia that trust has grown by 9%.
  • Opinions across the world are split regarding whether public broadcasters can be trusted more than private ones. In India, Peru, Sweden and Germany, respondents are much more trusting of public broadcasters and in Australia, we have a net trust score of +8%. These results indicate that there is no global trend regarding trust in broadcasters, but that trust levels depend on the country-specific situation of how broadcasting services are organised and controlled.
  • Regardless of levels of trust in public broadcasters, a plurality (46%) of the global population agrees that public broadcasters provide a necessary service. In Australia, 58% agree with the statement. In addition, three in ten Australians (29%) believe public broadcasters are ‘overly elitist’, 36% see them as ‘bureaucratic’, however 45% see them as offering quality programming and only 19% see them as obsolete.

Methodology:

  • These are the findings of Ipsos’ Global Advisor survey, an online survey conducted between January 25 and February 8, 2019.
  • This study did not have any external sponsors or partners. It was initiated and run by Ipsos, because we are curious about the world we live in and how citizens around the globe think and feel about their world.
  • The survey instrument is conducted monthly in 27 countries around the world, via the Ipsos Online Panel system. The countries reporting in this release are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States.
  • The results are comprised of an international sample of 19,541 adults ages 16-74 in most countries, ages 18-74 in Canada, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States, and ages 19-74 in South Korea. Approximately 1000+ individuals participated on a country by country basis via the Ipsos Online Panel, except for Argentina, Belgium, Hungary, India, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabi, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Turkey, Malaysia, Chile, Peru and Serbia, where each have a sample of approximately 500+.
  • 15 of the 27 countries surveyed online generate nationally representative samples in their countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and United States).
  • Brazil, China, Chile, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey produce a national sample that is more urban & educated, and with higher incomes than their fellow citizens. We refer to these respondents as “Upper Deck Consumer Citizens”. They are not nationally representative of their country. • Data are weighted to match the profile of the population. The precision of Ipsos online polls are calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/- 3.1 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 4.5 percentage points. For more information on the Ipsos use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.

The author(s)

  • David Elliott Director - PA

Society