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The No-Brainer Reason Republicans Don’t Trust the Mainstream Media: Constant Lies

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Journalism is facing one of the darkest periods in its history. Between 2020 and 2021, Gallup’s trust barometer detected that U.S. citizens’ trust for traditional media to report “the news fully, accurately and fairly” dropped to 36%, the second-worst detected by Gallup since the 2016 election between Clinton and Trump.

Another organization that detected this trend was Edelman, whose annual trust barometer found that more than half of Americans no longer trust traditional media. In fact, the study states that 56% of Americans believe that “journalists and reporters purposely try to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”

According to a study by The Economist and YouGovAmerica, two years into the pandemic and more than a year after Donald Trump left the White House, distrust towards the press is working as a sort of epidemic that is mainly affecting Republican voters. 

Democrats, on the other hand, even if they have reduced their trust a few percentage points, continue to trust the traditional press. This paradigm of Republican distrust and Democratic trust represents the main dividing point between trust studies in recent years.

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The YouGovAmerica study was based on the opinions of 1,500 Americans, who were asked where they get or read news, and how much they trust various national media. The conclusions are clear: no American media outlet has a trust rating above 40% except for the public network PBS (41%) and The Weather Channel (52%). In fact, the highest-rated media, and coincidentally one of the most balanced, is The Wall Street Journal (37%). 

Moreover, the trend is that Republicans tend to distrust the media much more than Democrats, who mostly trust (over 50%) national liberal-progressive media such as CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, among others. Republicans, although their confidence dropped slightly (from 57% to 53%), only trust Fox News by more than 50%.

La desconfianza en los medios tradicionales se convierte en una epidemia que se expande entre republicanos e independientes
Traditional media face a major distrust problem with conservative audiences. (Screenshot of The Economist / YouGov study)

The most politically polarized media outlet is CNN, as “nearly two-thirds of Democrats (66%) rate CNN as trustworthy, compared to 11% of Republicans, a 55-point difference.” The Times follows, with a 49-point partisan difference, as 63% of Democrats trust it, while only 14% of Republicans do.

There is one statistic that best exemplifies the distrust of the average American for the press and it was revealed by Gallup: only 31% of independents currently say they trust the press a great deal. Its peak was reached in 2003 when 53% of independents said they trust the press a great deal. In fact, since that year, the trend has been downward for both independents and Republicans.

La desconfianza en los medios tradicionales se convierte en una epidemia que se expande entre republicanos e independientes
Gallup data explaining how independents no longer trust traditional media trending downward since 2003 with few exceptions such as between 2017-2018. (Gallup)

Why are Republicans and independents more skeptical of traditional media?

Some say that the figure of Donald Trump marked a before and after in the way conservatives perceive the traditional press. It is a logical hypothesis, but not because it is the fault of the former president, but because since his arrival in the political sphere, the traditional media themselves have been concerned with showing themselves to be mostly aligned with liberal-progressive ideas and policies, abandoning the principle of equanimity and journalistic rigor. This has generated a deep distrust within the conservative public, reinforcing the trend that had been seen this century.

In fact, in the last five years, there have been emblematic cases that may well explain why Republicans, and even Independents, distrust the press.

Hunter Biden, his laptop, and shady foreign business dealings. The scant coverage of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son’s laptop was scandalous. The New York Post, in an important investigative work, discovered that a laptop belonging to the son of the current president could contain conversations linking Joe Biden to his business dealings abroad; something that Biden himself has denied on multiple occasions, even before reaching the White House. This computer, at the time ignored or discredited and branded as “Russian disinformation”, is today recognized by the two national newspapers with a liberal editorial line par excellence: The New York Times and The Washington Post. It took a year and a half for the New York newspaper to be recognized for its work

Hunter, Biden, Obama
Barack Obama (l), Joe Biden (c) and Hunter Biden (r). (EFE)

The lack of solidarity with the New York Post. Certainly, the liberal press behaved terribly in the informative treatment given to Hunter Biden’s computer -this admitted by the Washington Post itself-, however, there was another situation that almost no media, in any of its editorial boards, dared to denounce: the censorship against the tabloid by Big Tech.

The Post story, which turned out to be true and did not violate any privacy or hacking rules as Twitter and Facebook argued at the time, was limited by the major social media platforms from being disseminated weeks before the 2020 election. The New York Post, in fact, was suspended and censored by Twitter for weeks. No media outlet, save the Wall Street Journal, raised its voice on behalf of one of America’s longest-running publications. If Twitter had censored the Times or the WaPo what would the national media have done? It’s a question a conservative or independent voter might well ask.

The lies and conspiracy against Donald Trump. This may weigh much more heavily within the Republican voter than the independent one, yet it explains the phenomenon exposed by studies of trust in traditional media in recent years. The media waged a war against Trump, and vice versa: while the president called them disinformation media, liberal news organizations attacked with equal fury; calling him a danger to democracy, belittling several of his achievements as president, accusing him of entrenching political and social polarization (without giving credit to the Democrats), calling him racist, homophobic and a long etcetera that evidently generated a hostile climate between the White House and the liberal media during four years.

The problem is that the media puts a magnifying glass on a president because that is what the press exists for, to question politicians as an ally of the citizens, but when communication tools are used to attack a politician for the simple fact that he does not share your ideas. There are those who, like the award-winning journalist and writer Sharyl Attkisson, have dedicated themselves to count the fake news against Trump coming from the media, the data is overwhelming, up to 157 stories were published against the former president with factual errors. How many notes, op-eds and tweets came out of those dozens of fake news stories? Countless. 

What is most alarming, moreover, is that the press itself celebrated this “successful” conspiracy campaign against Donald Trump. TIME magazine itself admitted that there was a grandiose effort, involving Democrats, liberals, progressive organizations, Black Lives Matter, the press and even conservative actors to go against Trump in the 2020 presidential campaign, to prevent the re-election of the former president under the slogan of «saving democracy». It was an admission that the press, supposedly objective and even-handed, put aside journalistic values to openly play ball with the Democrats.

There are many examples that can be added to the list: the coverage regarding the pandemic — vaccination mandates, facemasks and confinements — the riots during the summer of 2020 led by Black Lives Matter and Antifa; the story of Kyle Rittenhouse, the innocent young man who was found not guilty in the courts but was previously slammed by the national press for defending himself from what was a possible death by assault; all are cases that, evidently, explain in one way or another, why the vast majority of the Republican electorate and a large part of the independent electorate today distrusts the traditional American press.