You Can Have Your Own Facts
YouGov has released its annual Trust in Media survey. The takeaway:
The Weather Channel remains the most trusted news source among Americans overall. Americans are 53 points more likely to call The Weather Channel trustworthy as they are to call it untrustworthy. It’s also the only outlet that YouGov asked about that more Democrats (+64) and Republicans (+47) trust than the shares who distrust it. The Weather Channel is just one of two outlets polled about that a majority of Republicans trust; the other one is Fox News (56% of Republicans trust it, with a net trust score among them of +41).
When it comes to the national rankings, The Weather Channel is followed by national public broadcaster PBS (+30), the U.K. news outlet BBC (+29), and The Wall Street Journal (+24) in national trust. This year’s poll has the same group in the top four as last year’s poll — even with the additions to this year’s poll.
The inclusion of The Weather Channel as a news outlet rather baffles me.
It’s noteworthy that the survey was conducted April 3-9, a few days before Fox News’ huge settlement with Dominion. Still, I doubt the needle moved much on that score. If you still thought Fox trustworthy then, you’re likely to either be blissfully unaware of the settlement and its surrounding facts or simply not care.
The sheer polarity on all but the extremes is fascinating:
With the bizarre exceptions of TWC and Infowars, there’s simply no agreement here. Anything Republicans trust, Democrats distrust—and vice versa.
The cable news outlet CNN is the most politically polarizing media source we asked about. There is a 92-point difference between Democrats’ net trust (+55) and Republicans’ net trust (-37) in CNN, a frequent target of former President Donald Trump.
The other outlets that have the largest chasm in trust between Democrats and Republicans — both of them trusted more by Democrats — are MSNBC and the New York Times. There is a 91-point difference between how Democrats (+54) and Republicans (-37) view MSNBC and an 82-point difference in how they view the New York Times (+53 vs. -30).
Interestingly, Democrats trust Fox News more than Republicans trust MSNBC. Even more oddly, more Democrats than Republicans trust the Wall Street Journal.
Republicans have a net distrust for virtually every significant news outlet. Oddly, two they do trust are state-sponsored PBS and BBC. Even more oddly, they trust PBS but strongly distrust NPR, despite their shared governance.
Democrats, meanwhile, on net trust all but the most wildly partisan/extremist outlets, with only Newsmax, OAN, Fox, Breitbart, and Infowars falling to the negative side. (I can only assume the Daily Caller numbers are reversed; it makes no sense that Democrats would trust Tucker Carlson’s site more than Republicans.)
Regardless, the poll reinforces my longstanding concern: I see no way out of our divide if we don’t share a common sight picture. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s forty-year-old* dictum, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts” hasn’t been true in quite some time.
*The column in which the quote appeared was published in the Washington Post on January 18, 1983. There are published variants of the idea tracing back to at least 1946.
Even more oddly, more Democrats than Republicans trust the Wall Street Journal.
WSJ is widely known among Democrats as a place where real journalists write articles and hacks write the editorial page. If someone asked me whether I “trust” WSJ, I would definitely be clarifying which part they were talking about.
Even more oddly, they trust PBS but strongly distrust NPR, despite their shared governance.
When most people think PBS, they think of Sesame Street and Curious George, not the PBS News Hour. But for NPR, they think of Morning Edition as much as Car Talk.
The takeaway here seems to be that Republicans continue to Do Their Own Research so they can live in the weird alternate reality they’ve built. No surprise there.
Actually, I think including TWC was pretty smart. It is a kind of news (and is news based largely on fact, or science-derived analysis). It is useful to see that it is possible for otherwise partisan audiences to be able to agree, on balance, on a certain kind of news. I would wager that the disagreement does exist regarding TWC is because they treat (in my albeit limited experience) climate change as real, which likely irks some of their audience.
I wonder if there is confusion over The Daily Caller and The Daily Beast (because I must confess I have to stop and remember which is which myself sometimes).
It also seems that Republicans are less likely to trust written sources, even sources that they ought to find more ideologically friendly: the WSJ and, interestingly, the National Review (or even the Washington Examiner). The only written sources they appear to favor are Breitbart and The Federalist (and then not by much).
Perhaps this plays into the Daily Caller issue as well? (Alongside the name confusion possibility I noted).
IMO, the Weather Channel overall assessment illustrates the confounding of fact versus opinion in the minds of those polled. Overall the TWC “news” seems to be clearly divided into two parts: what happened and what TWC thinks is likely to happen in the next few days. The first is “fact”, the second is opinion (hopefully based on the facts of past weather conditions)
My takeaway is that those polled are unable to distinguish between news (a recitation of facts) and opinion.
I was confused by the use of Republicans and Democrats so I went to the source article and more confusion prevailed. YouGov reported one survey on trustworthy outlets but the survey asked US adult citizens. Then it switched to the comparison between Democrats and Republicans. Does that leave out the 40% that are Independents? Seems like that automatically creates the divergence and says more about Democrats and Republicans than about Americans.
@Steven L. Taylor: What’s funny is that, while I haven’t watched TWC in years, I rely on their app because it’s the best available. And my level of trust in them is actually pretty low, in that they will tell me there’s zero percent chance of rain when rain is falling at this very minute!
Except that isn’t opinion. It is a model-based forecast (which, as @James Joyner notes can be incorrect, but in reality is usually pretty accurate–and as we all saw with 538, probabilities are different than certainties).
This really doesn’t tell us anything on its own. Republicans trust A and don’t trust B, and Democrats vice versa. But which is a better source for news? (And no, pretending that Fox News is somehow different from the Fox News Network shows doesn’t cut it.) I think the NYTimes and WaPo and NPR are head and shoulders above anyone else in terms of depth and accuracy and I don’t think it’s even debateable. The fact that Republicans don’t trust them says everything about them and their connection to reality and nothing about the news organizations themselves.
@Steven L. Taylor: I actually don’t trust TWC very much and pretty much get my weather from my Apple iPhone App, although when it is really important to me I go to NOAA and weather.gov. Years ago my brother and I were staying in a hotel while at a job site and he pointed out that when the weather is nice and stable TWC would have low budget local commercials for things like auto dealers and injury lawyers. But when there was a big storm brewing viewership would skyrocket and so did their ad rates and suddenly the commercials were for Home Depot or national insurance companies. It was definitely in their interest to have a lot of severe weather happening. Since then I’ve noticed that TWC (and AccuWeather and all the commercial weather services) hype everything all the time. Is there snow coming? OH MY GOD IT COULD BE A CATASTROPHE! Meanwhile NOAA is predicting a 70% chance with an inch or less accumulation.
Actually, Fox News barely covered the trial or the settlement so their viewers are blissfully unaware that Fox News has been lying to them and laughing at them behind their backs.
As for the rest, SLT makes the most valid point;
Republicans, after a decades long war on education by their own party that continues apace, cannot read.
@Steven L. Taylor:
The MAGAs hate and despise The National Review and the WSJ for being nests of globalist Communist RINOs. And the Washington Examiner, for that matter. They prefer The Gateway
Pundit and The Conservative Tree House for real news.
I am not joking.
For me the interesting entry here is Newsweek, which continues to coast on the former reputation of the news magazine by that name long after the branding was bought out by religious extremists for use as a propaganda site.
@MarkedMan: The thing about private weather services is that they all get their data from the same source: NOAA. I stick with the NWS, they don’t have any ideological axes to grind.
I read an article about the conservative plans to eliminate the NWS and privatize all weather forecasting and the problems that would arise from that, such as monetizing tornado warnings:
“Buy our Premium Package and get the all the weather warnings as soon as we see dangerous weather patterns or buy the Poor Persons Package and maybe we’ll let you know when a tornado is a mile from your home.”
The opinions of Republicans are the opinions force-fed to them by the one network whose owner admits under oath that it regularly lies to viewers. Politics is becoming less about the financial haves and have nots, more and more about the intellectual haves and the not-so-much. The Blue Team is better-educated and more secular, Republicans are less-educated and more religious.
I don’t know how to ameliorate or undo intellectual/educational sorting. A Brave New World of alphas, betas, gammas, deltas and MAGAts.
I don’t trust any media sources–I just don’t approach media consumption like a survivalist peering through a barricaded door with a gun loaded and ready. This is poll is about that and the so-called facts which have these people claim have led them into the bunker.
Until a few months ago, they were one and the same!
Some years ago we saw the phrase “epistemic closure” constantly. The phrase seems to have died as a meme, but the phenomenon continues.
I’d also note that as a word “trust” is a bit squishy. I trust NYT and WAPO. Kathy may note that they get the details wrong on aviation stories. Actually they get the details wrong on almost everything. All they know is what people tell them and they only half understand that. By mindlessly covering HER EMAILS!!! they did more to elect Trump than Comey did. They both have large stables of lying spit conservative columnists for “balance”. And the WAPO editorial board is on a campaign to undercut Biden on the debt ceiling. In any case their job is to peddle papers, not educate the electorate. But I kind of know their biases and can compensate. I guess that’s “trust”.
@Michael Reynolds: The public are ignorant. One party suffers from that and the other depends on it.
I suspect selective watching on the Republicans’ side in some of these. That the Weather Channel is clearly a climate change believer doesn’t seem to matter. They also do a lot of weather as entertainment: World’s Deadliest Weather and Highway Thru Hell come to mind.
A couple of years ago I decided to revamp my sources for daily news reading. Interestingly, I wound up with USA Today and the AP, two of the top eight in this list, as my primary reads. My impression — without anything like statistics to back it up — was and is still that I’m no worse informed than reading the New York Times and Washington Post left me, without a bunch of irritation those two were causing me. Again, I wonder if there is some selective reading going on with the Republicans. USA Today is clearly a left-leaning publication. The AP is strongly on the side of climate change is real and there was no election fraud.
I’ve never known a doctor or a dentist who didn’t complain about how awful coverage of medical news is/was.
@James Joyner:Interesting! I didn’t realize that. It might be why I was satisfied with it.
My takeaway from the chart you put up is that Democrats trust more. There is no news organization that hits net -40 with D’s and several with R’s. There are two organizations above +40 with R’s and 17 organizations that are +40 with D’s.
I think that’s noteworthy.
I’m also curious whether there is time series data on this, or data from 50 years ago.
Credible news operations died when the media moguls overtly shifted news from being a public service to a marketable commodity.
The upside is you’ll likely never know what I get wrong about aviation, because I check prior to posting whenever I’m the least bit unsure of something.
@Chris:..Credible news operations died when the media moguls overtly shifted news from being a public service to a marketable commodity.
About 70 years ago…Camel News Caravan NBC 1953
@Steven L. Taylor: I would guess that Republicans watch more and read less, so their reactions to print media may be more visceral than reality based. For the record, I did not look at the source material, so I don’t know that the pollsters factored out for actual exposure to various sources, but I would expect that based on the number of outlets polled on, they probably couldn’t have.
@MarkedMan: The idea of “better” source is still subjective. In our society, “more accurate” may even be subjective. Everyone is going to prefer sources that favor their personal worldviews, and this bias is not going away given that it’s bone deep in most humans.
@James Joyner: Unless this information is out of date (and it’s from the internet, so draw your own conclusions), you may be upside down information wise.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: Yup. According to Wiki, “Earlier versions of Weather up through the release of iOS 7 sourced the app’s forecast data from Yahoo! Weather; in March 2019, Yahoo! shut down the servers distributing data for the Weather app on devices supporting iOS 7 and earlier operating systems. From iOS 8 to iOS 15, The Weather Channel was used as the app’s weather data source. Since iOS 16, Apple has used their own internal forecast data.” iOS 16 came out last June.
I use Weather Underground, mainly because it links home weather stations, including one across the street.
Skepticism of the “news” has always been a factor. Most people just weren’t that interested. But now that active manipulation the eroded Knoll’s Law
And increasingly the media exposes itself like the meme going around with a screen grab from a news station with the chyron touting: “Train Derailed Trying to Swerve Hitting to Avoid a Semi Truck on the Tracks.”
It the small, routine failures that provoke skepticism in all but the most gullible.
@JKB: You don’t happen to have a YouTube of that chyron do you? I’d love to see something that idiotic in real time.
Why are you allergic to providing a source? It’s usually annoying. But in this context it goes beyond that because the subject is trust and accuracy.
@Kurtz: Who trusts JKB or expects accuracy from him?
(Asking for a friend. 😉 )
@Just nutha ignint cracker: And I was just thinking, “JKB made an interesting point”, but you are right. I suspect that it is some internet meme derived from this, where a CSX train derailed while trying to avoid hitting a car… by slamming on its brakes.
JKB, your love of snark just sinks you every time…
I think it’s plausible that some tv feed somewhere, at some time, put up the exact chyron JKB references. I just wouldn’t put much weight on that, as it is likely the sort of error that somebody hurrying, while putting up several chyrons in a few minutes with about 20 things on their mind might make.
It is exactly the sort of thing that millions of people do on the internet every day. They find some story that validates their world view and show it to everyone with a subtext (or sometimes an overt text) of “I was right all along”. I mean, I feel the lure of the Dark Side myself on this… However.
It’s not a betrayal of trust, it’s just a dumb mistake. And an obvious one.
Maybe there’s a difference there? When I say I “trust” someone, it means not that I think they are infallible, but that they are doing their best to be accurate and informative. Perhaps others have a different definition.
Agreed. TWC is weather-for-profit. I have seen systematic studies that show they have a significant bias toward the more extreme forecast — higher highs, lower lows, more precipitation, higher winds — than NWS, and are as a result less accurate overall. They justify this on the grounds that hazard is asymmetric, and people are generally more upset to have underestimated the impact the weather will have on them than to have overestimated. And for potentially really dangerous stuff — tornados, derechos, hurricanes, storm surge — it’s better safe than sorry.
They are very good at describing what has happened. They are strong public safety advocates in times of severe threat. They are firmly and relentlessly science-based, including realism about climate change. And “Highway Thru Hell” (and “Prospectors” back in the day) are fun. If you’re aware of what they’re doing, it’s possible to calibrate.
…but when a winter storm is coming I always rely on the NWS Probabilistic Forecasts.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: I’m not even sure von Mises is real.
– von Mises, Liberalism and Rodentia, 1906.
Less odd once you process how deeply irrational, bigoted, stupid, and homogenenous the Republican Party has become post-Reagan — dominated by extremist, racist, homophobic, conspiratorial, wingnuts who adore authoritarian dirtbags like Dementia Donald and Ron DeFascist. They hate whomever and whatever they are told to hate by the grifter clowns of far right media. Rush Limbaugh tells them to hate NPR, not PBS, so they hate NPR. It’s that simple. When PBS gets in the cross hairs, they’ll hate PBS.
It’s just like the irrational orgy of misogynistic stupidity that fueled Republican Hillary-hate, the dumb anti-Disney nonsense, the bizarre meltdown over Bud Light sponsoring *one* Instagram post by a trans Instagram influencer, etc etc. It’s not based on any proportionate reality. The dumb, angry, easily-frightened bigots who populate Trumplandia do as they’re told.
Relative to the GQP horror show, the Democratic Party is an inclusive, multicultural, ideologically-diverse big tent party that now includes some right-leaning and swingy moderates and even a handful of disaffected, conflicted, questioning conservatives.
My first vote was for John McCain. I subscribe to the WSJ. My dad watches Fox News all time. Neither of us are voting Republican at all ever again. The white supremacist, book banning, gun nutting, forced birthing, climate change denying, tax cuts for billionaires Trump party is dead to me.
I think there is some truth to Knoll’s Law (as invoked by @JKB–-though note that the term was coined by Reagan’s Attorney General).
Let us also note that we need to balance that against the Dunning-Kruger effect which suggests that people think they have far more expertise about topics than they actually have. I tend to think–from personal experience–that the latter tends to cause “Knoll’s law” to get applied in a lot of situations where it probably should not be.
Cognitive dissonance combined with motivated thinking is a hell of a drug.
I’d like to see some, or at least one, of those studies. For me they have been rather spot-on. Talking about their local weather crawler at the bottom of the screen, and matched NWS aviation 12-24 hour forecasting every time that I have checked both . Always assumed they are using NWS as a source because of that.
On a different theme/tone altogether, but I immediately thought of the Weather Underground of my youth.
Distrust of The Economist among Republicans… baffling.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
Waving hands frantically, “that’s me, that’s me!”
I mean, there’s got to be a pony in this stable…somewhere.