Wednesday 3 May 2006

BBC/Reuters/Media Center Poll: Trust in the Media

‘Media More Trusted Than Governments’ — Poll

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More people trust the media than their governments, especially in developing countries, according to a ten-country opinion poll for the BBC, Reuters, and The Media Center.

Media is trusted by an average of 61 percent compared to 52 percent for governments across the countries polled. But the US bucked the trend — with government ahead of media on trust (67% vs 59%) along with Britain (51% vs 47%). 

Trust in media was highest in Nigeria (88% vs 34% gov’t.) followed by Indonesia (86% vs 71%), India (82% vs 66%),  Egypt (74%, gov’t. not asked), and Russia (58% vs 54%).

National TV was the most trusted news source overall (trusted by 82%, with 16% not trusting it) - followed by national/regional newspapers (75% vs 19%), local newspapers (69% vs 23%), public radio (67% vs 18%), and international satellite TV (56% vs 19%). Internet blogs were the least trusted source (25% vs 23%) – with one in two unable to say whether they trusted them. 

TV was also seen as the most 'important' news source (56%) followed by Newspapers (21%), internet (9%) and radio (9%).   

One in four (28%) reported abandoning a news source over the last year after losing trust in its content.

A total of 10,230 adults were questioned by GlobeScan in the UK, USA, Brazil, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Russia, and South Korea in March and April. 

Other key findings included:

Strong demand across all countries and ages for news: seven in ten (72%) follow news closely every day — including two in three (67%) in the 18-24 age range.

Two in three people believe news is reported accurately (65%), but more than half (57%) believe governments interfere too much with the media and only 42 percent think journalists can report freely. People are divided on whether the media covers all sides of a story, with 41 percent disagreeing.
Nigerians believed most strongly that government interferes too much in the media (75%) followed by South Korea (71%), Brazil (64%), Indonesia (59%), Britain (58%), India (56%), and the US (52%). 
Three of four (77%) prefer to check several news sources instead of relying on just one, especially Internet users.
More men (76%) than women (69%) said they followed the news closely every day.
Trust in media has increased overall over the last four years — in Britain up from 29 percent to 47 percent and in the US from 52 percent to 59 percent.
Younger people use online sources most, being the first choice among 19 percent aged between 18 and 24 compared to just 3 percent in the 55-64 age range. But 56 percent overall valued the opportunity to obtain news online — South Koreans being the most enthusiastic at 85 percent.  Britain was on 57 percent and the US on 60 percent.

GlobeScan President, Doug Miller, said: "The poll suggests that media is generally trusted across the world
— more so than national governments, particularly in the developing world." 

“National TV is still the most trusted news source by a wide margin, although the Internet is gaining ground among the young. The jury is still out on ‘blogs’ — just as many people distrust them as trust them.”


To see country-specific profiles, please click here.

Section 1: The Overall Results

A major 10-nation public opinion poll exploring Trust in the Media has found that even though the media is more trusted than the national government in half the countries surveyed, significant numbers of people are switching news sources because they do not trust the information they receive.

Fully 28 percent of the people polled report abandoning a news source in the past year because of lack of trust in its content. While the poll shows that overall trust in the media has remained relatively stable over the past 4 years, it also reveals clear trust winners and losers among different news media.

Internet news sources appear to be winning audiences as a result of loss of trust in traditional sources — especially young urban men. However, just as many people distrust blogs as trust them.

The poll of 10,230 people was conducted for the BBC, Reuters, and The Media Center by the international polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners in each country, with interviews conducted between 10 March and 4 April 2006.


Trust in Media

Overall trust in the media varies across the 10 countries, with the greatest trust expressed in developing countries such as Nigeria (88% have a lot or some trust), Indonesia (86%), India (82%), and Egypt (74%). These are the countries where trust in national governments tends to be lower in comparison (please see accompanying chart).

Interestingly, Americans (59%) and Russians (58%) express similar levels of trust in their media “to operate in the best interests of society.” 

In the four other countries surveyed, media is more distrusted than trusted, including in the UK where only 47 percent have trust in the media, South Korea (45%), Brazil (45%), and Germany (43%).

Comparing these current trust findings with 2002 results to the same question shows media is trusted the same or more today in 7 of the 8 countries for which comparative results are available (that is, all countries except Germany, where trust has fallen from 49 percent to 43 percent; and Egypt and Brazil where no tracking is available). Trust has increased over the last four years in Nigeria (from 61% to 88%), India (76% to 82%), USA (52% to 59%), Russia (48% to 58%), and the UK (29% to 47%).

GlobeScan President Doug Miller comments, “With public trust levels in general eroding over the last four years, it is noteworthy that the media has retained or increased its trust in most of the 10 countries in the same period.”


Distrust Leads to Switching

Over one in four people (28%) across the 10 countries surveyed either strongly agrees (13%) or somewhat agrees (15%) with the statement, “In the past year I have stopped using a specific media source because it lost my trust.”

This is particularly the case in Brazil (44%), Egypt (40%), South Korea (39%), and the US (32%).  Russians (10%) are least likely to say this, as are Germans (15%), and Indonesians (17%).  Citizens of the UK (29%), India (28%), and Nigeria (27%) define the average position across the 10 countries.

Those most likely to have stopped using a news source because of a breach of trust (the 13% strongly agreeing they have done so in the past year) are more likely to be urban males, aged 18-24. Further analysis of the findings suggests this young male audience is moving away from television towards the Internet – ten percent fewer of them, compared to the average, name television as their most important news source (46% as opposed to 56% overall); and 15 percent say the Internet is now their most important news source in an average week, compared to just 9 percent of respondents as a whole.

GlobeScan’s Doug Miller comments, “Trustworthy news matters very much to people; if they feel they aren’t getting it, a significant minority switch sources; and young urban men are voting with their ‘clicks’ to get the news they want on-line.”


Who’s Trusted, Who’s Not?

Some types of news sources are more trusted than others. National television is the most trusted by some distance — overall, 82 percent trust it, with just 16 percent distrusting it. This is the case in all markets except Brazil, where national or regional newspapers come first. National newspapers (75%) are next most trusted in the other nine countries. National television and newspapers are also the news sources most used across the 10 countries.

Internet blogs are the least trusted news sources across the 10 countries, with one in four (25%) saying they trust them and almost as many (23%) saying they distrust them. Blogs are least trusted in Brazil (where 20% trust them and 45% distrust them) and the US (25% trust vs 38% distrust). Blogs are most trusted in South Korea (38% vs 25%), Indonesia (36% vs 16%), and Egypt (30% vs 15%). Across the 10 countries, one in two felt unable to say whether they trusted blogs or not.

Only 3 percent name blogs as their most important news source. South Korea is the only exception (17%).

People were asked, without prompting, to name the specific news source that they most trust to provide them with the news they want. The most trusted individual news brands mentioned are usually country-specific television networks and newspapers. The following chart shows the top three mentions per country, along with the percentage naming them. (For more details, please see the country-specific information in the Country Profiles section.)

Awareness of more ‘global’ news brands is very low in most countries. For the 16 specific international news brands tested in the survey (see questionnaire in Methodology Section for the total list), less than half of respondents across the ten countries were sufficiently aware of them to respond.

The most trusted global news brands among those tested include the BBC (with 48% across the 10 countries saying they have a lot or some trust) and CNN (44%). Even though Internet web sites in general do not receive particularly high trust ratings, three Internet portals received the next highest prompted trust ratings across the 10 countries; namely, Google (30%, a lot or some trust), Yahoo (28%), and Microsoft/MSN (27%).

Newsweek (25%) and Time (24%) are next most trusted among the 16 global news brands tested in all countries. Al Jazeera (23%) came next but it also had the highest percentage of people (19%) expressing no trust or not much trust in providing the information they want.


Perceptions of the Media

The survey asked people whether they agreed or disagreed with a wide range of statements about how they access the news and information they want as well as their perceptions of the media’s performance on a range of trust-related factors. (Please see the questionnaire in the Methodology Section for the exact wording of these statements.)

The findings across the 10 countries paint a varied picture of both threats and opportunities for those involved in the news media:

Fully seven in ten (72%) say they follow the news closely every day; even among the 18-24 age group 67 percent say this

People are equally split on whether they get the news they want from mainstream media, with fully 46 percent saying they do not

Six in ten (59%) agree that the media covers too many bad news stories, especially Brazilians (80%), South Koreans (69%) Americans (68%), and Britons (63%)

One in two (52%) agree the media is too focused on Western values and concerns, especially in Brazil (67%), South Korea (66%) and Egypt (61%)

More people disagree (46%) than agree (42%) that “journalists are able to report the news freely, without interference from owners,” especially in South Korea (63% disagree) and Germany (59%)

Fully 77 percent of people agree that they prefer to check several sources of news rather than relying on just one. This is particularly true of Internet users.

Analysis of the survey findings reveals that the perceptions that most drive people’s overall trust in the media relate to basic journalistic standards such as accurate reporting and reporting all sides of stories.

While the media’s performance in accurately reporting the news is widely acknowledged by an average of 65 percent of people across the 10 countries, only half the people in the US (46%), Brazil (45%), and the UK (43%) agree that this basic underpinning of journalism is delivered by the news media.

A slim majority (54%) across the 10 countries agrees that the media reports all sides of a story. Importantly, however, less than one in three American (29%) and UK citizens (32%) agree with this.


Demographic Differences

Age is the most significant demographic factor when it comes to the use of different news sources, and also important in shaping attitudes towards the news media.  The younger people are, the less likely they are to get their news from either television or newspapers, and the more likely they are to rely on the Internet. One in five (19%) of those aged 18 to 24 names the Internet as their most important news source, compared to 9 percent overall.

This 18 to 24 year old audience is also most likely to say that they value opportunities to get their news from on-line or mobile sources (71% vs average of 56%), that they trust the international media more than national sources (36% vs 30%), and that they seldom get the news they want from mainstream media (50% vs 46%).

Women are more likely than men to name television as their more important source of news while men are more likely than women to name newspapers and the Internet. Men are also more likely than women to: follow the news closely every day (76% vs 69%), value new technologies for getting their news (60% vs 52%), and abandoning a distrusted news source (31% vs 25%).

Looking to the future, the attached chart shows there is a clear demographic pattern in those who most value the growing opportunities to get the news and information they want using the latest Internet and wireless technologies.

To see country-specific profiles, please click here.


Polling was conducted in-person or by telephone from 10 March to 4 April 2006 with a total sample of 10,230 people. In 4 of the 10 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country is +/- 3% 19 times out of 20. For more details, please see the Methodology or visit

For media interviews with the participating pollsters, please contact:
Doug Miller, President
GlobeScan Incorporated, London
+44 20 7958 1735
(Mobile: +44 78 999 77 000)

or contact the participating pollsters in each country.

GlobeScan Incorporated is a global public opinion and stakeholder research firm with offices in Toronto, London, and Washington. GlobeScan conducts custom research and annual tracking studies on global issues. With a research network spanning 50+ countries, GlobeScan works with global companies, multilateral agencies, national governments, and non-government organizations to deliver research-based insights for successful strategies.

The BBC exists to enrich people’s lives with great programmes and services on television, radio and online that inform, educate and entertain. Its vision is to be the most creative, trusted organisation in the world. BBC reporters and correspondents at home and abroad can be called on for expert coverage across a huge range of subject areas. With over sixty foreign bureaux, the BBC has the largest newsgathering operation in the world. BBC World Service provides international news, analysis and information in English and 32 other languages.

Reuters, the global information company, provides indispensable information tailored for professionals in the financial services, media and corporate markets. Its trusted information drives decision making across the globe based on a reputation for speed, accuracy and independence. Reuters has 15,300 staff in 89 countries, including staff from the acquisition of Telerate in June 2005. It also includes 2,300 editorial staff in 189 bureaux serving 128 countries, making Reuters the world’s largest international multimedia news agency. In 2005, Reuters’ revenues were £2.4 billion.

The Media Center is a nonprofit think tank committed to building a better-informed society in a connected world. The Media Center helps individuals and organizations worldwide acquire intelligence and apply insight into the future role and use of media and enabling technology.