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Nine in 10 US adults 18-34 trust advertising at least sometimes, the highest trust level of any age group, according to results of a new Adweek Media/Harris Poll.

Youngest Adults Most Trusting

While fully nine in ten young adults aged 18-34 say they trust that advertising is honest in its claims at least sometimes (90%), fewer older adults agree: 86% of those 35-44 say this, as do 84% of those 45-54, and 81% of those 55 years and older.


Conversely, almost one in five adults 55 and older say that they never trust that advertising is honest (18%), compared to less than one in ten 18-34 year olds who say the same (8%).

1 in 5 Trust Advertising is Honest All or Most of Time

Overall, only one in five American adults say they trust that advertising is honest in its claims all or most of the time (19%). Rather, a majority say they trust that advertising is sometimes honest in its claims (65%) and just more than one in ten say that they never trust that advertising is honest in its claims (13%).

Adults 18-34 are tied for or have the highest percentage saying advertising is honest all of the time (1%) and most of the time (23%). This age group also has the lowest rate of responding advertising is never honest (10%).

Less than 1% of adults 55 and older say advertising is honest all of the time, the lowest response rate of any age group (the others all tied with 1%). Adults 45-54 have the lowest rate of saying advertising is honest most of the time, but the highest rate of saying it is honest sometimes (69%).

Adults 55 and older have a substantially higher rate of saying advertising is never honest (18%) than any other age group.

Half of Americans Lack Trust in Ad Regulation

When asked who they trust to ensure that advertising is honest in its claims, Americans are split as three in ten say that they trust regulation by the government to ensure advertising is honest in its claims (29%), while 23% say they trust the self-regulation by advertisers and advertising industry more.


However, half of Americans say they trust neither (48%). Just as younger adults showed less skepticism about advertising honesty, younger adults also show more confidence in the various regulatory checks and systems. Adults aged 18-34 are more likely than those 55 and older to say both that they trust government regulation (33% compared to 26%) and advertising self-regulation (26% compared to 18%) to ensure that advertising is honest.

Not surprisingly, more than half (56%) of Americans 55 and older, say that they trust neither the industry nor the institution to regulate advertising honesty, compared to less than half of those 35-44 (44%) and 18-34 (41%) who say the same.

While younger adults tend to trust the various systems of regulation more than older adults do, Americans with higher education say they trust the government to regulate advertising much more than those with less formal educations do-almost two in five who have graduated college say that they trust government regulation (38%), compared to three in 10 who have attended, but not graduated, from college (29%), and less than one-quarter who have not attended any college (22%).

2 in 10 Americans Often Confused by Commercials

Eighty-nine percent of Americans overall watch TV commercials, according to results of another recent Harris Poll. In addition to 75% of Americans having ever found a TV commercial confusing, 21% often do so.

However, while just 14% say they never find commercials on television confusing, 55% say they do not find commercials confusing very often, and 11% do not watch commercials on TV.

About the Data: This Adweek Media/Harris Poll was conducted online within the US between October 5 and 7, 2010 among 2,098 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Where appropriate, this data were also weighted to reflect the composition of the adult online population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

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