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Essential: trust in media slumps following phone hacking

Trust in Australia’s commercial media has slumped dramatically in recent months, according to new polling. But more people trust The Australian than any other newspaper.

According to the online survey from Essential Research, fewer people have trust in metropolitan dailies, local newspapers and commercial TV and radio news and current affairs than they did in March 2010.

The percentage of voters saying they have some, or a lot of, trust in daily newspapers has fallen from 62% in March to 53%, with 54% saying they have some or a lot of trust in local newspapers. Trust in commercial TV news and current affairs has also collapsed, from 64% to 48%, with 17% saying they had “no trust at all” in it. Commercial radio news and current affairs has also fallen, from 54% to 46%, and talkback radio is now even more poorly regarded — down from 38% to 33% (with 32% saying they had no trust at all). News and opinion websites fell from 49% to 41%.

Only the ABC retained trust — 71% said they had some or a lot of trust, up one point since March, and ABC radio news and current affairs rose from 62% to 67% (talkback programs rose two points to 47%). Trust in blogs remained steady at a lowly 20%.

The phone hacking scandal is clearly responsible for at least part of this shift, with more than half of voters saying they are now more concerned about the conduct of Australian newspapers in the wake of revelations about News International in the UK, a sentiment that runs across partisan lines. Almost half of voters believe there needs to be more regulation of the media, while just over 30% say the present level of regulation is “about right”.

This time, Essential asked about trust in specific mastheads. The results suggest voters are even less trusting of individual titles than of “newspapers” in general, which garnered 53% trust.

The Australian emerges clearly ahead of its rivals: it is trusted “a lot” by 10% of voters and trusted “some” by 31%, and with strong recognition — only 40% of voters said they have never read it. The Fairfax Sydney and Melbourne broadsheets were less widely-read: 49% had never read The Sydney Morning Herald and 52% had never read The Age resulting in significantly lower trust figures — only 7% of voters had a lot of trust in The SMH and 23% “some”; The Age scored 7% and 21%.

The News Ltd tabloids fared worse: 48% of voters had never read The Daily Telegraph but it scored only 3% and 20%; the Herald Sun was read slightly less (50% never read it) but scored the same; The Courier Mail scored only 3% and 16%, presumably reflecting its low recognition — 59% had never read it.

There has also been a significant rise in opposition to the level of control of News Ltd in the Australian newspaper market, with 58% of voters saying the government should not allow one company to own the majority of Australia’s major newspapers, up eight points since when the issue was last raised in November. Support for allowing it has fallen from 15% to 9%, and “don’t cares” are down from 26% to 23%.

There was also strong support from voters for Tony Abbott’s proposal to repeal the carbon pricing scheme after the next election: 50% of voters said they support scrapping the policy, compared to 36% who opposed it, with Liberal voters strongly in favour (81%) and Greens and Labor voters strongly opposed (73% and 63% respectively).

On voting intention, a recovery of sorts for Labor has set in — for the second week in a row the government has added a point on its primary vote (32%) and the Coalition lost a point (48%) for a two-party preferred outcome of 55-45%. That’s down from 56-44% last week and 57-43% the week before.

Update: Essential previously asked questions about trust in media in March 2010, not this year as originally implied.

Update: Essential has now provided numbers from the question on trust in individual mastheads with responses from those who haven’t read each one removed. As the original article indicates, this significantly affects the proportion figures relating to trust. Essential’s “reader-only” responses are:

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  • 1
    jimD
    Posted Monday, 25 July 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Bad news on the attitude of respondents to the carbon tax, I suppose, but the rest of the results don’t look bad to me. The ABC is way out ahead on credibility. And at least Murdoch’s mug-sheets are rated down there with talkback radio, as they deserve to be. While The Australian is trusted by more of its readers than either the SMH or The Age, I suspect a larger proportion of habitual readers of The Aus are rusted on Coalition supporters, while the SMH and Age probably cannot claim that sort of loyalty from any political party - indeed, their readers might be smart enough not to give any media outlet that sort of credit. I would like to see the circulation numbers, too. If the SMH and The Age together outsell The Aus, then Iam not bothered by the respondents estimates of their trust in these papers; at least if they’re reading the SMH and the Age, they are getting something closer to balance than they ever will from The Aus.

    I am left with a question: what are the sort of readers who need to be told what to think - in words of one syllable - going to do now, if they hate the mug-sheets so much? They’re certainly not going to read Crikey, are they?

  • 2
    wilful
    Posted Monday, 25 July 2011 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I “trust” the Australian - trust them to provide whatever Rupert Murdoch’s view on the world are.

  • 3
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 25 July 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    When I am reading any newspaper in search of bit of political information, I do it understanding there will be spin, sometimes hard to detect and other times so much it is difficult to identify any substance. Readers of News Limited work product are fed a diet of political information some of it sourced from government media releases and filtered according to the inclination of the papers owner. Other put together by journalist with contacts who are working because their work product suits the employer. So many of us have our thinking influenced, push polled by the information we choose to access, just as much as we are influenced by the information our elected representatives / governments keep hidden. Many readers will understand the phrase “feeding the chooks”. It was not meant to be flattering of journalist, but it certainly identified a process where those in power influenced what got a run. Edward James

  • 4
    scottyea
    Posted Tuesday, 26 July 2011 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Despite the poll, I think the trust was lost long ago.

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