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Feb 2, 2016

Trust in media: the best newspapers get worse, and the worst get better

Good new for The Daily Telegraph -- it's not the least trusted paper in Australia anymore.

Myriam Robin — Media Reporter

Myriam Robin

Media Reporter

The Daily Telegraph is no longer Australia’s least trusted newspaper, a title it has held since July 2011.

According to Essential Trust in Media figures released today, the Sydney tabloid rag is the most trusted it has been in five years. While only 10% of readers said they had “a lot” of trust in The Daily Telegraph, nearly half, 46%, said they had “some” trust in the paper. The result gives it an aggregate figure of 56% who trust the paper, which isn’t a bad figure at all, putting it only 10% behind The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, both on 66%.

The regular survey, conducted as part of Essential’s political polling, only asks readers in the states where papers are based, and only those within those states who say they read those papers. In recent years, the figures have fluctuated, but they have always shown Fairfax’s major papers, as well as The Australian, are more highly trusted than the tabloids.

But that gap is narrowing. Since July 2011, Australia’s two most trusted newspapers — the SMH and The Age — have suffered sharp falls. In July 2011, four in five readers of The Age (79%) said they had “some” or “a lot” of trust in the paper. Today, that figure is 66%. The Sydney Morning Herald’s trust figures, meanwhile, have gone from 74% to 66% over five years.

As the The Australian and Fairfax’s “compacts” have done worse, the tabloids have, according to this survey at least, done better. It’s also the Herald Sun‘s best result in five years, with 57% of readers saying they have “some” or “a lot” of trust in the paper. The Courier-Mail, however, lags behind. Its trust figures have fallen every survey since July 2011, and dropped one percentage point again this year, to 47%. (Respondents aren’t polled on all News Corp’s tabloids, as the ones in smaller states have too few readers to form a statistically significant sample in a national poll. That’s also why the Financial Review is missing from the survey).


Note: Percentages based only on respondents who read each newspaper

The narrowing gap between the most and least trusted outlets has been accompanied by a small rise in trust in media overall.

ABC TV news and current affairs remains the most trusted overall, with 66% of those polled having “a lot” or “some” trust in it. SBS TV news and current affairs wasn’t far behind on 63%. Commercial TV news and current affairs also had a good survey, up two percentage points to 48%, as did commercial radio, now very or somewhat trusted by 46% of listeners.

News and opinion websites, a category that includes Crikey, were up to 44%. It’s not the best or worst rating for the category, which has fluctuated 49% to 39% of respondents saying they had some or a lot of trust in recent years. Rounding out the bottom rankings were commercial radio talkback programs and internet blogs, though the latter also a slight increase in overall trust ratings to 23%.


Trust in the media overall tends to go down in times of high partisanship, such as during political campaigns. With an election campaign expected later this year, these may be the best figures we see for a while.

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5 thoughts on “Trust in media: the best newspapers get worse, and the worst get better

  1. mikeb

    Commercial radio talkback 34%. Hmm. It’s obvious that lefty elites run Essential Trust in Media. Doesn’t it? If not then why take seriously anything that comes out of commercial talkback radio? When former PMs run to Alan Jones for self confirmation are they deluding themselves?

  2. shea mcduff

    Really when we step back and put these numbers into context they are appallingly low.
    Take “The Australian” numbers for example.
    63% have ‘some’ [51%] or a “lot” [12%] of trust.
    Doesn’t sound too bad until you realize these are its readers.
    Those who buy it, or grab it as they board the plane whatever.
    Blokes like me who would never buy it don’t get counted in the ‘none’ column, which at 9% is awfully close to the ‘lot’ mob.
    Why do they buy/read it?
    Obviously not for the opinion or journalistic stuff.
    Probably the footy, classified ads, whats on at the movies and so on.

    These numbers really are an indictment of our media.

  3. klewso

    When it comes down to a matter of trust in our abusepapers, surely most of those people that don’t buy them don’t buy them for a reason? How many of those “non-participants” think these publications are biased, self-indulgent, politicised crap – and can’t be trusted at all?
    What effect would those figures have on the “trust” factor?

  4. AR

    Talk about comparing apples, oranges & piles of steaming horse shit.
    As all above note, those are the opinions of those who read (no indication of whether lips are in motion)and maybe even pay for these papers.
    ABC only barely trusted more than mudorc media? Puhleez!

  5. Angela

    Nominating individual “news and opinion” websites would be useful rather than lumping them all together. This would reflect how Australians are consuming news these days.
    For example, it was disappointing not to see The Guardian included. The Guardian has become a major player in reporting news (particularly political news) and is included in the “front page” daily review on most TV programs.

    Without nominating individual news and opinion websites the trustfulness question is meaningless.