If there’s been one consistent thread through Donald Trump’s relatively brief political career, it’s this: The media are bad, biased and generally terrible people.
New polling from Gallup suggests that Trump’s view of the media is widely shared among the very Republicans who helped fuel his rise the 2016 primaries.
More than six in 10 people (62%) say that the media “favors one party over the other.” That’s a significant increase from the 48% who said the media favors one side over the other when Gallup last asked the question in 2003. And that change is almost entirely attributable to Republicans growing more and more convinced that the media is biased; 79% of self-identified Republicans now describe the media as biased, as compared to 59% who said the same in 2003.
Not surprisingly given those numbers, almost two-thirds of those polled said that the media favors Democrats. Just 22% said the media is biased in favor of Republicans. Almost nine in 10 Republicans believe that the media is biased against their side.
It’s into that political/media environment that Donald Trump was born, was raised and has prospered. While many in the mainstream media rolled their eyes during the campaign at Trump’s relentless attacks on how journalists were “some of the most dishonest people,” it was a sentiment many of the people he was courting already believed.
And, while Trump’s insistence that news with which he doesn’t agree is “fake” generates frustration in newsrooms across the country, it is something that is taken at face value by lots and lots of Republicans.
(It’s worth noting that while the surge in distrust in the media is primarily driven by Republicans, Democrats aren’t exactly convinced the media is fair and balanced. Among those Democrats who say the media is biased in favor of one party, 43% say that bias is against Democrats while 40% say it’s against Republicans. That’s very much a split decision.)
The decline in trust numbers for the media is part of a broader trend that Gallup has also documented: A deepening lack of faith in virtually every institution in America. Gallup conducts a yearly poll in which they gauge peoples’ level of trust in 14 major institutions – from the church to the Supreme Court to television news. In 2016, just 32% of people, on average, said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in those 14 institutions. Over the last decade, 10 of the 14 institutions tested by Gallup have suffered a loss in terms of trust; the biggest decliners were banks, organized religion, Congress and, wait for it, the news media.
Trump didn’t invent the public’s distrust of the media. But man, did he capitalize on it. And numbers like these from Gallup suggest you’ll be hearing much more about the dishonest media and the so-called “fake news” as his term in office progresses.