The Daily Telegraph has recovered from a sharp decline in trust following the 2013 election, the latest Essential “Trust in Media” survey shows.

New figures released today show, however, that despite 10% more respondents saying they had “some or a lot” of trust in the Daily Telegraph, it remains Australia’s least trusted newspaper, with just one in two respondents (51%) saying they trusted it. Only those who read the paper are polled for this question, so the figure shows even those who regularly read the Daily Telegraph do so with caution. In December, only 41% of Daily Telegraph readers polled said they trusted the paper.

Q. How much trust do you have in what you read or hear in the following newspapers?

The Tele’s fellow tabloids didn’t fare much better — the Herald Sun slightly increased its level of trust with 53% of respondents saying they had some or a lot of trust in it, up from 48%, while The Courier Mail figures went down from 59% to 54%. The Courier Mail and Daily Telegraph are tied when it comes to readers who say they have “a lot of trust” in the papers — just 9% nominated this option, though it’s worth noting most other newspapers aren’t doing much better.

Also experiencing a dramatic erosion of trust was The Age, with just 61% of respondents saying they had “a lot” or “some” trust in the paper, down from 68% just six months ago. The survey was conducted from the Wednesday to Monday just past, so it’s possible the decline was driven by the lost dictaphone scandal, where an Age journalist lost her recorder which was then found to have contained covertly recorded off-the-record briefings. In July 2011, The Age was Australia’s most trusted newspaper with 79% of readers saying they had “some” or “a lot” of trust in its reporting — it has been declining in every survey since then.

Trust figures for the Sydney Morning Herald were steady at 64%, while The Australian saw a slight decline from 64% to 61%.

When it comes to all news media, the ABC’s TV News and Current Affairs remains the most trusted source of reporting in Australia, with 67% saying they had “some” or “a lot of trust in it”, 23% of which nominated the latter. But its trust levels declined from 70% six months ago – the second such decline in a row.

After ABC TV, SBS TV came next with 65% nominating these two trust categories, while ABC Radio was third on 63%.

Q. How much trust do you have in what you read or hear in the following media?

Both commercial radio and commercial television saw rapid rises in trust in this survey, with 45% of respondents saying they trusted commercial radio (up from 38%), and 47% nominating the same for television (up from 41%). However, it’s worth bearing in mind that both sectors saw declines in trust in the most recent survey — the commercial radio gains put it 1% behind where it was in January 2013, while commercial TV has leapfrogged 3% above where it was then. This may be because of the last federal election — media trust across a range of sectors fell in its aftermath.

  • For more analysis, read David Salter’s take on the “Trust in Media” figures here

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey