The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Here’s a poll to trust: Americans’ trust of media now at all-time low

Donald Trump in Manchester, N.H., in June. (Jim Cole/Associated Press)
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It’s quite a cycle: Donald Trump gets in front of an audience and dedicates a goodly portion of the proceedings to blasting the “dishonest” and “disgusting” media. Television outlets and newspapers and websites — media, that is — repeat the charges and analyze them. That provides more grist for Trump to bash the media. And it’s not just him; President Obama took some very pointed jabs at media coverage of campaign 2016 in an address Tuesday in Philadelphia.

So there’s no great drama in this new data set from Gallup:

Now for another shocker: The cratering trust of Republicans in the media:

That’s a drop from 32 percent to 14 percent in one year — and the poll was conducted between Sept. 7 and 11, before CBS News’s edit of an interview with Bill Clinton! In assessing the data, Gallup is noncommittal. “With many Republican leaders and conservative pundits saying Hillary Clinton has received overly positive media attention, while Donald Trump has been receiving unfair or negative attention, this may be the prime reason their relatively low trust in the media has evaporated even more,” reads the company’s write-up. “It is also possible that Republicans think less of the media as a result of Trump’s sharp criticisms of the press.”

Gallup here is suggesting a cause-and-effect relationship between ubiquitous criticism of the media and declining trust in the media. Plausible enough. Moving back through history, there’s a big gap in the data: In 1976, 72 percent had either great or fair amount of trust in the media. The next year for which data is available is 1997, when the comparable level was 53 percent. That’s a big drop. The next precipitous drop on the trend line kicks off in 2003 — which also happens to be the year that WordPress launched. Maybe a decade-plus of mainstream-media-hating bloggers could account for a portion of this swoon?