The national broadcasters remain far ahead of commercial media as the most trusted source of reporting during the federal election campaign, while News Corp newspapers and commercial radio were the least-trusted, today’s Essential Report shows.

Just over a quarter of voters had “a lot” of trust in ABC TV’s election coverage and 39% had “some trust”, while 11% had “not much trust” and 6% “none at all”, making it the most trusted source for election news with a combined trust level of 65%. SBS TV scored a combined total of 61% “some” or “a lot” of trust. ABC Radio scored 54% “some” or “a lot” of trust.

There’s a considerable distance back to the next most trusted sources: in New South Wales, The Sydney Morning Herald managed 45% combined trust and 25% little or no trust, while in Victoria The Age scored 42% combined trust and 33% little or no trust (with state-based papers, only respondents in those states are polled). Commercial television also scored 42% but had a noticeably lower score on “a lot of trust” and much higher negative score of 44% little or no trust.


News Corp newspapers, which campaigned hard against Labor amid rumours its editors would receive a bonus if the Turnbull government was returned, had noticeably lower levels of trust. The Australian scored just 37% trust, although it had the highest “do not use” response from voters (30%) reflecting that it is a national, not state-based, newspaper. That was the same score as The Courier-Mail, while the two most hysterically pro-Coalition newspapers, the Daily Telegraph in Sydney and the Herald-Sun in Melbourne, both scored 35% trust; 43% said they had little or no trust in the Melbourne tabloid, and 39% said they had little or no trust in the Telegraph. The only outlet to rival the News Corp tabloids for lack of trust was commercial radio, which also scored 35% trust.

Labor voters were more likely to trust the ABC and SBS — 71% of Labor voters trusted the ABC compared to 63% of Coalition voters, but the latter were more likely to trust the Fairfax papers, by around five percentage points, more likely to trust commercial television (44% for Labor voters, 51% for Coalition voters) and more likely to trust News Corp outlets — for example, just 34% of Labor voters have trust in The Australian, compared to 50% of Coalition voters. But even among Coalition voters, commercial radio (40%) and the Telegraph (41%) are least trusted.

Trust in the media as a whole tends to go down during the fevered atmosphere of election campaigns. All outlets scored worse than they did in the last such poll done by Essential in February. But compared to the highly partisan 2013 election, all media outlets fared relatively better this time round. In 2013, ABC TV was most trusted, with 58%, the Fairfax papers were on 39% and 42%, and the highly partisan News Corp tabloids scored in the low-mid 20s. The Daily Telegraph vastly improved its performance this election, with 35% of NSW respondents having “some” or “a lot” of trust in its coverage, compared to 25% last time. The SMH also improved its score this election, though not by as much. The results also illustrate something we first pointed out in February: the gap between News Corp and Fairfax’s papers is narrowing, as both the Age and SMH see sharp falls in total trust, while the News Corp tabloids make gains.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey