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Sept. 9, 2021, 10:34 a.m.
Audience & Social

Conversations about trust in news often tend to focus on folks who are actively hostile to certain brands — people wearing “CNN FAKE NEWS” and rioting in the Capitol, people assaulting journalists at Trump rallies or Black Lives Matter protests.

But “indifference, not hostility, is the primary challenge for journalists when trying to increase trust in news,” according to a report out Thursday from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

The report’s authors surveyed residents of four countries — about 2,000 people each from the U.S., UK, India, and Brazil — and found that, across all four,

those who generally lack trust in news are not necessarily the most vocal and angry about news coverage (who are, on closer examination, often people who are selectively trusting towards certain news providers). Instead, the generally untrusting tend to be the least knowledgeable about journalism, the most disengaged from how it is practiced, and the least interested in the editorial decisions and choices publishers and editors make daily when producing the news.

The researchers used a nuanced definition of trust, asking respondents how much they trust “‘information from the news media’ rather than news media as institutions,” drilling down on specific brands, and using a “forced-response structure” where respondents had to choose from one of four categories rather than choosing a wishy-washy “neither trust nor distrust.” Here are the top-line results from each country:

There are some similarities among those the researchers classified as “generally untrusting” toward news brands overall:

Gaps in trust can clearly be traced to attitudes people hold towards polarizing political leaders or parties, but not in a uniform ideological manner. We also find some more consistent trends with respect to particular demographic variables: older people, those without college degrees, and, to a somewhat less consistent extent, people who are white or living in smaller towns or rural areas all tend to be more concentrated among the group we call the “generally untrusting.”

We find the most consistent patterns with respect to age: people aged 55 and older are more often generally untrusting, whereas those who are under 35 are typically overrepresented among the generally trusting segments of the public.

You can read the full report here.

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