The media-trust numbers have been getting worse for several decades, with a few rises in trust but with the overall trend clearly point down, down, down.
When did this begin? In the podcast, I linked this slippery slope to another political reality I have watched during my lifetime — the winner-take-all role of the U.S. Supreme Court. As sociologist James Davison Hunter noted in his classic “Culture Wars,” the high court as become more and more powerful in a bitterly divided nation in which it is impossible for legislatures to negotiate centrist compromises. SCOTUS is the final trump card, the only way to force millions of Americans to change their beliefs and actions.
Now, readers of all ages, pause and think about the more controversial 10 or so decisions of the past 50 years, the SCOTUS rulings that loom over every presidential race, as well as U.S. Senate contests. Both sides preach the same messages: Who will control the American future? If we want to defeat evil, that will require controlling SCOTUS.
In your list, how many of the pivotal decisions have focused on issues of morality, religion, sexual liberty or First Amendment questions linked to those issues? I predict quite a few, as discussed in the podcast.
Let’s move on.
The latest bleak media-trust poll came from the Associated Press and the NORC team at the University of Chicago. Here are the key bullets from Axios:
Three in four American adults blame the media for dividing the nation, according to a new AP-NORC poll.
* Just under half say they have little to no trust in the media’s ability to report the news fairly and accurately.
Why it matters: The breakdown in trust could prompt many to reject the mainstream news media and turn to social media and unreliable websites, where misinformation can proliferate and partisan echo chambers can thrive, AP notes.
Between the lines: 40% of respondents say the media is doing more to hurt democracy than protect it.
The painful paradox: Americans distrust niche, biased news — but continue to consumer more and more of it. Americans say social-media outlets are even worse, but that is where they turn for succor as an alternative to straight shows of mainstream news.
Are there political dynamics in play, other than the overarching trend numbers?
Of course there are and, I would argue, they closely mirror America’s divisions on cultural, moral and religious issues and, thus, SCOTUS. Here is a few bytes from the relevant AP story:
“The news riles people up,” said 53-year-old Barbara Jordan, a Democrat from Hutchinson, Kansas. Jordan said she now does her own online research instead of going by what she sees on the TV news. “You’re better off Googling something and learning about it. I trust the internet more than I do the TV.”
While a slim majority of Americans say they have some degree of confidence in the news media’s ability to report the news fully and fairly, only 16% say they are very confident. Forty-five percent say they have little to no confidence at all.
Trust Google? Isn’t that implying that Americans can trust Big Tech to be neutral in battles to control the nation’s future? Just asking.
Also, that 45% “no confidence at all” number is interesting. What is the percentage of America that — to any degree — identifies with some traditional form of faith? How does that 45% link to America’s ongoing political divide, which stunningly close to 50-50 at the polls?
Thus, this third-party voter (that’s moi) noted:
Republicans view the news media less favorably than Democrats, with 61% of Republicans saying the news media is hurting democracy, compared with 23% of Democrats and 36% of independents who don’t lean toward either party. Majorities across party lines say the news media fuels political division, but Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to say that’s happening a lot.
Why would voters in the more culturally conservative half of America be less likely to trust news-media elites than “progressive” voters?
Overall, about 6 in 10 said the news media bears blame for the spread of misinformation, and a similar percentage also said it has a large amount of responsibility for addressing it. Majorities also think others, including social media companies and politicians, share in the responsibility both for the spread of misinformation and for stopping it from spreading.
Want to predict that there are major divisions on cultural, moral and religious issues when Americans define what is and what is not “misinformation,” as well as what measures are appropriate (in social-media, for example) to stop this dangerous material “from spreading”?
That brings us to social media:
Social media plays a key role (in falling levels of trust) with nearly two-thirds of respondents saying that when they see a news story on social media, they expect it to be inaccurate. Those who said they rely on social media regularly for their news were somewhat more likely to trust it than others.”
#SIGH. Rinse and repeat.
Enjoy the podcast and, please, pass it along to others.
FIRST IMAGE: Uncredited graphic at BlackEnterprise.com
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