There is no question that the media are one of the most untrustworthy institutions in Republican circles.
Over the past two decades Trust in traditional media has declined – Especially among Republicans. According to Gallup pollSince at least the late 1990s, Republicans are less likely than Democrats (and Independents) to say they trust the media. As of 2015, Republican confidence took a nosedive, falling from 32 percent to 10 percent in 2020. (Meanwhile, Democrats’ trust in the media has actually increased again, and quite a bit.)
Part of it is because Republicans are often louder in their criticism of the media and have long found it liberal. Now, however, they are also more likely to say that being “anti-media” is part of their political identity, and this probably leads to the amazing media trust gap that we see.
Let’s start with Republican media habits. In our broken media ecosystem, this is not uncommon for both Republicans and Democrats Search for news sources that strengthens their political convictions. And as new study findsExposure to partisan media – whether liberal or conservative – diminishes people’s overall confidence in the mainstream press, regardless of political party. But what sets Republicans apart at this point is their continued reliance on just one source for all of their news: Fox News.
In its survey of the media landscape leading up to the 2020 presidential cycle, the Pew Research Center found that of the 30 news sources it was asked about, Only Fox News was trusted by the majority of Republicans. (Second largest Republican source, ABC News, was barely a second: 33 percent said they trusted ABC News for political and election news, compared with 65 percent who trusted Fox News.) That statement is in stark contrast to The views of the Democrats, who said they trusted a variety of news sources, and that marks a further decline in Republican confidence in other news sources since Pew last conducted a similar poll in 2014.
This is partly because hostility towards the other party is at an all-time high and Republicans are increasingly associating the news media with the Democratic Party. That means they’re more likely to fire a source that isn’t Fox News (or One America News Network or Newsmax) as politically biased. For example in a January YouGov / American Enterprise Institute poll Of those who said they voted for then President Trump in 2020, an astonishing 92 percent agreed strongly or in some way that “the mainstream media is now just part of the Democratic Party”.
This distrust and growing hostility towards the media by Republicans are significant given that they are already isolated news consumers. And studies have shown that if news consumers exist in a media bubble, so can they hostile to news that does not reflect their political beliefs. (This also means they can trust their favorite news outlets.) As Jonathan Ladd, Professor of Public Order and Government at Georgetown University and author of “Why Americans Hate the Media and How It Matters, ” mention, that, Republicans receive news from Fox News (and the broader conservative media ecosystem) that the mainstream media cannot be trusted. “This is not new,” said Ladd, but he added that the conservative media’s continued criticism of the press has been “pushed into full swing” by the modern Republican Party.
Take what happened in the Trump era. During his presidential campaign and four year tenure, Trump was openly attacked the media, Calling journalists or news organizations who criticize him or his government “false news”. Consequently, his supporters have The existing perception of media bias and distrust of news organizations increased – that was especially true among its white followerswho tend to consume exclusively conservative media. For example, at many of Trump’s campaign events, his supporters would belittle, attack and threaten the press. And now, if Trump’s supporters disagree with a fact, they can decipher it as “fake news” – whether or not it is Crowd or Election results.
In other words, hostility and distrust of the news media have become a point of political identity among Republicans. We see this particularly in the way people talk about politics online. Take for example A recent study of tweets mentioning “false news”. Within 15 months, study authors Jianing Li and Min-Hsin Su of the University of Wisconsin-Madison noticed an increase in the number of tweets using the words “we” or “our” and “she” or “her” . in conjunction with the phrase “fake news”. In essence, the researchers concluded that online discussions of “fake news” were a way for conservatives to create a sense of group belonging Stop things ”) and at the same time establish a common enemy (“ Fake News Media is a hate group. They hate President Trump ”). The use of pronouns that mean group membership (like “we”) and group opposition (like “they”) is useful on social media platforms like Twitter, where users interact with strangers. Even though users may not know each other personally, they are still trying to build a community, which certainly applies to users who tweet about politics as well.
Another study that looked at Trust in the news mediaPolitical scientists Taeku Lee and Christian Hosam of the University of California at Berkeley found that this stance, regardless of bias, helped predict a range of political opinions, such as support for a path to citizenship and positive action. What was more consistent, however, is that over time (from 2016 to 2019) the role of the media’s distrust in shaping opinion shifted so that people who distrust the media more consistently consolidated themselves around Trump. In essence, this media distrust now “serves as a basis for Americans to sort themselves into political tribes,” Lee said. And as their study shows, “false news” functions as “Shibboleth” or as a way for Trump supporters to ideologically differentiate themselves from other Republicans. It is possible that “a new form of conservatism is likely brewing, with media distrust being one of the biggest factors,” Hosam said.
Why is it so central to republican identity to be anti-media? It is no coincidence that Republicans’ suspicion of the media is growing against the backdrop of the growing hostility of the partisans as they suspect they are democratic. But it’s more than that. As Hosam explains, “Trump combines this type of opposition to the media with a form of conservatism that didn’t exist before.” A by-product of this is that media distrust is more central to Conservative group identity than it was before Trump. Or, as Lee put it, signaling suspicion of the media is “almost the same as wearing a red MAGA hat”.
As a researcher, Hosam admits that this can make studying suspicion of the media a complicated topic as suspicion has shifted from an attitude towards the institution itself to a testimony of conservatism. “Now it’s even harder to know what people are really getting into when they talk about the media. What media diets and trust in the media are really telling us.” And for many Republicans, this could mean that suspicion of the media is better understood as a way of understanding the centrality of their partisanship to their identity.