Monday, March 25, 2013

Further Decline in Credibility Ratings for Most News Organizations

In August of 2012, the Pew Research Center published a report on a poll conducted in late July on the perceived believability of newspapers, cable news, and network news. The poll also checked the perceived believability of local newspapers and broadcasts.


Using a 4-point scale, respondents were asked to assign a number on 13 news organizations relating to how accurate they believe the organizations to be. Aside from examining the previously mentioned areas, the study also examined the perception of news organizations between Republicans and Democrats. Overall believability in news organizations has sharply declined since 2002. In 2002, 71% or individuals who could answer the question assigned a positive rating of 3 or 4, 30% assigned a negative rating of 1 or 2. In 2012, the positive rating had dropped to 56% while the negative rating had increased to 44%.

The newspapers that were used were the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, and the local newspaper. Believability for all four dropped since 2002. The New York Times and USA Today dropped to from the mid to low 60s to 49%, the Wall Street Journal dropped from 77% to 58%, while local newspapers saw the least significant drop (64% to 57%).

Cable and local news still has general positive ratings, but these ratings have declined since 2002. CNN (76% to 58%) and MSNBC (73% to 50%) both maintained at least 50% overall believability. Fox News dropped just below the 50% mark (67% to 49%). Local TV news barely changed, as it stayed in the mid 60s (68% to 65%).

Network news maintained a relatively high credibility rating compared to newspapers and cable news. In 2002, ABC, CBS, and NBC News all had a believability rating of 72%. Ten years later, the numbers fell to 59%, 57%, and 55%. 60 Minutes went from 77% to 64% while NPR went from 62% to 52%.

When political affiliation is brought into the mix, the results change dramatically. Of the 13 organizations, Republicans were found to trust only five of them. These were 60 Minutes (51%), Wall Street Journal (57%), USA Today (50%), Local TV News (68%), and Fox News (67%). Democrats were the opposite. with the majority trusting all the organizations with the exception of Fox News (37%). Independents were in the middle. trusting eight organizations. As with Democrats, Fox News was the lowest scoring organization, with 43%.


While the poll and results do not discuss news analysis or are an example of it, the results show the problems that using only news analysis can cause. The issue that was examined was not the accuracy of the news that these organizations report on but the perceived accuracy. As the poll shows, there has been a decline in the perception of accuracy in news media. This in turn harms a method such as news analysis, a method that relies on these organizations for sources.

This poll also shows the biases that political leanings can cause and how they can be exploited. An example of possible exploitation is knowing the political leanings of a management team or CEO and releasing false information on certain networks or newspapers. These biases could lead to higher deception is exploited properly.

As for the study itself, there are some elements that could be improved on. One element that was done correctly was using a four point scale. By keeping the range simple, this avoided confusion that using a scale of 1 to 10 can cause. The biggest item that the study missed out on was polling on the believability of online news sources. Polling on the perceived believability of online news sources would have made this report more beneficial to the intelligence community, as the majority of sources that we use in our program are online.

Source: (2012). Further Decline in Credibility Ratings  for Most News Organizations. The Pew Research Center for the People and Press. Retrieved from 


  1. This is a very interesting connection to news analysis, though I'm not sure I completely agree with the idea that the results always harm news analysis as a method as you suggest. Like you said, the survey does not examine accuracy, only perceived accuracy. News analysis in certain cases may take perceived accuracy into account, but it does not always greatly affect the news analysis if it public perception is not an element being studied. However, it definitely adds a consideration that would be important for future use of news analysis, if public perception/sentiment is the focus of the news analysis, and researchers should find ways to mitigate this issue. However, as social media analysis becomes more popular, I think it is extremely important to recognize this type of analysis does not require people to perceive the information as entirely valid or accurate.

  2. I found this article interesting as well in providing information about perceived accuracy by the populace and how it has seemed to decline for every news agency. It would be interesting for a researcher to figure out why this has declined for all the major news agencies that were under study. To improve this study I think that the author would have benefited from conducting content analysis to see if the word choices used in these publications have changed over time and is the variable responsible for the increase of distrust in the information published by the news sources under scrutiny.

  3. In my research on news analysis, I found politics to be a very important factor. The large influence politics and other factors that generate high emotions play a significant role in the results of these studies and can skew the results; this is highlighted well in the article. The addition of politics into the study drastically changed the results. It is not surprising that Republicans found Fox News to be more believable while Democrat's views were the opposite.

  4. This article is very interesting. There’s often a lack of objectivity in news coverage, especially in relation to politics. Since we collect open source intelligence from new articles projects, I think it’s important to keep in mind that certain subjects can be exaggerated based on politically motivated preferences. I wish the author had explored the topic further to determine why the popularity decreased in 2002. It would be interesting to find out if declining popularity in new organizations is correlated to the accuracy if the information presented in news papers. I’m surprised that a reputable newspaper like the Wall Street Journal was affected by this.

  5. I think this article makes a fair point- news analysis relies on how much people believe in the articles. You also make a very good point- online news sources are paramount to intelligence analysis. I shudder to think of having to go through print news articles and type them into a content analysis program. Perhaps the online news articles were lumped into the newspapers category.

    This is directed at the article (not you!) but one of the results states that Republicans were found to trust USA Today (50%). It's not really more trusting if the other half does not trust and it's split down the middle. Half does not make a simple majority.

    I feel this article should have at least mentioned some of the potential outside factors affecting how accurate people perceive the news to be, through whatever media. A couple examples include how sensationalized the news is (or has potentially become) or even political trends with regards to the population.