Traditional media reign supreme when it comes to Americans’ trust in information sources, according to [pdf] a survey released in June 2012 by Allstate, in association with National Journal. Three-quarters of the survey respondents said they trust information from public TV and radio either some or a great deal, more than double those who could same the same about social networks (30%). In general, a greater amount of respondents displayed trust in traditional media information sources than in online channels. For example, trust in newspapers (71%), cable news networks (70%), and network news (64%) outstripped trust in company websites (51%) and blogs and online forums (34%).
This gap in trust between traditional and online sources was also found in survey results released in January 2012 by Edelman. According to that report, 32% of “informed publics” in 20 countries around the world said they trust traditional information sources a great deal, representing a 10% rise from 29% in 2011, and remaining ahead of online sources, which rose 18% from 22% to 26% of these respondents. The report defined informed publics as aged 25-64, college-educated, in the top 25% of household income per age group in their country, and reporting significant media consumption and engagement in business news and public policy.
SocNet Users Show Similar Patterns
Interestingly, among active social network users, patterns of trust remains much the same. Details from the Allstate survey reveal that this group places the most trust in public TV and radio (79%), followed by newspapers (74%), cable news networks (73%) and network news (65%). And much like the overall sample, only a minority trust blogs and online forums (38%), with just 36% trusting the social networks they are members of as reliable sources of information.
Social media users are right around the average when it comes to their skepticism towards ads: only 36% say they have at least some trust for ads as an information source.
Online Growth Has Information Benefits, Though
Despite some trust issues, Americans overall have a positive view of the impact of growth in online information. 3 in 5 respondents say that the vast amount of information made available by the rapid growth of the internet, most recently through social media, has made it easier for them to be a well-informed consumer, as it is now easier to research and compare products, and it allows for increased communications with other consumers and the companies themselves. This compares to 32% who believe the information growth has made it harder for them to be a well-informed consumer, because there is too much information to manage and it is hard to know what reports are reliable and trustworthy.
Social media users again align with these views, and, somewhat predictably, are even more in favor of the positive impact of the wealth of information provided by the internet. 69% believe it has made them better-informed, compared to 27% who find that it has made it harder for them to be well-informed.
- Americans are 15% more likely to believe that the growth of information online has made it easier for them to be a well-informed citizen than harder (47% vs. 41%). Social media users are 38% more likely to see the positive impact (55% vs. 40%).
- In terms of institutions and organizations, Americans – and the social media subset – show the least amount of trust in major corporations as an information source, and the most amount of trust in small and local businesses.
- Leaders of major corporations suffer the same trust deficit as political candidates, with a minority of Americans (and social media users) saying they have some or a great deal of trust for them.
About the Data: The Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll was conducted May 19-23 via landline and cell phone among a national sample of 1000 adults aged 18 and older. 640 were active social media users.