The two-year long slide in trust in most of Australia’s media outlets has halted, with trust flat or rebounding slightly for many outlets, Essential Research polling has found.
With Australia’s newspaper market in turmoil, voters with “some” or “a lot” of trust in daily newspapers has rebounded six points to 52% from December last year, back to about where it was in July 2011, although well down on the 62% of March 2010. Trust in local newspapers has increased four points since November, to 56%, making newspapers the most trusted form of commercial media.
Commercial television news and current affairs has also lifted slightly to 46%, up three points since December but still well short of its 64% rating of two years ago. Similarly, news and opinion websites have lifted slightly to 40%. Internet blogs, which remain the least trusted form of media, were up three points to 20%.
Commercial radio, however, remained at the low levels of trust it plumbed in 2011: talkback radio is trusted by just 33% of voters, the same level it has maintained since July 2011, and commercial radio news and current affairs is also unchanged on 45%.
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The ABC retains its undisputed title as Australia’s most trusted media. Trust in ABC television news and current affairs rose two points to 74%, its fourth straight rise, and ABC radio lifted two points to 69%.
Essential also asked about trust in individual newspaper mastheads, and it’s some rare good news for Fairfax. The question relates to trust in individual titles by people who have read the paper recently and live in the relevant state (or in the case of The Australian, all voters who read it). The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald are the most trusted major newspapers: 76% of Victorians who have read it have some or a lot of trust in The Age; 69% of NSW voters who have read it trust The Sydney Morning Herald. But both titles have fallen slightly in trust since July last year — The Age down three points, the Herald down five.
The news is worse for News Limited. The Australian suffered a nine-point fall in trust, down to 60%. The Herald-Sun fell three points among Victorians to 51%; The Courier-Mail had the biggest fall, down 14 points to 51%. And bringing up the rear is Australia’s least-trusted major newspaper for two years in a row, The Daily Telegraph, which lost three points to 49% among NSW readers. Just under one in five readers say they have “no trust at all” in the Telegraph, by far the highest level of no trust, and a further 30% say they have little trust.
Delving into the data reveals some patterns. The previously noted tendency for older voters, who use newspapers more than younger people, to trust them less is repeated — only 44% of voters aged over 55 have some or a lot of trust in daily newspapers, compared to 53% of 18-34-year-olds and 56% of 35-54-year-olds.
Partisanship also divides media users. Liberal voters are more likely to trust newspapers (and more likely to trust News Ltd newspapers) and more likely to trust talkback radio — 41% of Liberal voters trust talkback radio compared to 26% of Labor voters and 22% of Greens voters. Indeed, Greens voters tend to be the least trusting of any voters when it comes to commercial media: a full 36% of Greens voters have “no trust at all” in talkback radio and only 23% have trust in commercial television news and current affairs; 26% have “no trust” and 48% have “not much trust”. Instead, Greens voters overwhelmingly trusted the ABC — 91% trust in ABC TV news, and 89% trust in ABC radio news.
Unsurprisingly, Greens voters have little trust in News Ltd titles, although it’s Labor voters who trust The Australian least, but Fairfax titles have far less partisan division than News Ltd titles — Labor and Liberal voters are indistinguishable when it comes to trust in the Herald, and Liberal voters trust The Age slightly more than Labor voters, though far less than Greens voters.
Lies, damned lies and statistics, of course, but when it comes to newspapers, it seems that partisanship leads to a decline in trust among everyone but adherents of the party you cheer for.