Americans expressed the least amount of trust in news media of all the markets surveyed in the recent Digital News Report 2021 from Oxford University's Reuters Institute research center released Wednesday.
The Reuters Institute commissioned a YouGov survey of over people 90,000 in 46 media markets on six continents to produce the report.
"More than a year after it began, the coronavirus pandemic continues to cast a dark cloud over the health of our communities – as well as that of the news industry," the report's executive summary from Nic Newman, a senior research associate at the Reuters Institute, read.
"The crisis – complete with lockdowns and other restrictions – has hastened the demise of printed newspapers, further impacting the bottom line for many once proud and independent media companies," he added. "Our country pages this year are full of stories of journalistic lay-offs as advertisers take fright in the face of a global economic downturn. New business models such as subscription and membership have been accelerated by the crisis, as we document in this year's report. But in most cases, this has still not come anywhere near making up for lost income elsewhere."
Newman noted, in much of the world, "trust in the news has grown, on average, by six percentage points in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic – with 44% of our total sample saying they trust most news most of the time."
Finland has the highest levels of trust in the media, at 65%, while the U.S. has the lowest levels of trust of any country surveyed at 29%.
The report also found, "while many remain very engaged, we find signs that others are turning away from the news media and in some cases avoiding news altogether. Interest in news has fallen sharply in the United States following the election of President [Joe] Biden – especially with right-leaning groups."
The use of nontraditional sources of news, such as social media, remains strong in the U.S., "especially with younger people and those with lower levels of education."
Newman added, "interest in the news in the United States has declined by 11 percentage points in the last year to just 55%. To some extent this is not surprising as our poll was conducted after the turbulent events on Capitol Hill in January and the departure of [former President] Donald Trump. But our data show signs that many former Trump supporters may be switching away from news altogether. Almost all of this fall in interest came from those on the political right."
The report also casts doubt on the viability of subscription-based news media platforms gaining traction in the near future, saying, "the vast majority are still not prepared to pay for online news and with more high-quality content disappearing behind paywalls there are pressing concerns about what happens to those who have limited interest or who can't afford it."
"Worryingly, our data also show a historic decline in interest in the news overall," Newman noted. "In this respect, our findings that both political partisans and young people feel unfairly represented will be especially troubling for media companies looking to build engagement both across political divides and with the next generation."
The Digital News Report 2021 was based on data from a YouGov survey of more than 92,000 online news consumers from 46 different markets from the end of January through the beginning of February.
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