This week’s Essential Report had an interesting set of questions on public perceptions of influence and trust as they apply to a number of various groups in Australia, one being the media.

That got me thinking about public perceptions of the media more generally, so today we’ll have a quick squiz at the polling data over the past five or six years on this, including a poll where the sample is actually made up entirely of journalists.

If you work in the media, it’s probably not a good idea to read any further — or if you can’t help yourself, get some tissues, some chocolate and book a session with your favourite therapist of choice. You may well need it after these charts.

First up, the Essential questions and responses went:

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Not only did a clear majority of the public believe that the media has too much influence on the policies of our political parties (the highest rating of all groups asked about in the question), but the media was also the least trusted to represent the interests of the public to boot.

This public negativity towards the media as a collective body is not particularly new. Morgan runs a phone poll every year that asks the following question:

As I say different occupations, could you please say — from what you know or have heard — which rating best describes how you, yourself, would rate or score people in various occupations for honesty and ethical standards (Very High, High, Average, Low, Very Low)?

Morgan then tracks the sum of the “very high” and “high” responses across time — going all the way back to 1979. While you can see the full results of the latest survey over here (this year’s survey should be due any time now), just for some quick context, this is what the time series of responses for a few of the non-media occupations look like:

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Oh to be a car salesman. This is what the various categories of media occupations look like:

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The media has never been held in particularly high regard when it comes to honesty and ethical standards. In fact, newspaper journalists — the media occupation with the lowest perceived ethical standards and honesty — come in just above “advertising people” and just below “real estate agents”. I’m sure they aspire to double their score this year and come in equal to state MPs.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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