October 30, 2014

Which news organization is the most trusted? The answer is complicated.

Our recent report, Political Polarization and Media Habits, finds that trust and distrust in the news media varies greatly by political ideology. Many readers asked us: Among the 36 news organizations we asked about, which one do Americans trust most? The answer is more complex than it may seem and can be measured in a number of different ways. Here’s a breakdown:

1Trust of News SourcesThe full population picture doesn’t tell the whole story. If you look simply at the total percentage of online adults who say they trust a news organization for news about government and politics, several mainstream television outlets rise to the top. CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox News are all trusted by more than four-in-ten web-using U.S. adults. These high numbers, though, are intertwined with the fact that more than nine-in-ten respondents have heard of these five news sources. Trust and distrust were only asked of sources respondents had heard of, thus, the better known a source is, the more Americans in total who can voice trust or distrust of that source. A source like The Economist, on the other hand, is known by just 34% of respondents and so could never have a trust level exceeding 34% — even if everyone who had heard of it trusted it. 

2Is a news organization not trusted? Or just not well known? An alternative way to analyze the data is to look at the percent of trust among those who have heard of the news organization. This approach means that lesser-known outlets may be seen as equally trusted as better-known outlets. By this metric, several of the best-known sources sit toward the top, joined by some less familiar sources. NPR, for example, is on par with many of the mainstream television outlets on this measure. Among the panelists who have heard of NPR, 55% trust it. The same is true of 57% of those who have heard of CNN and 53% of those who have heard of NBC and of ABC.

Trust of News Sources Based on Those Who Know Them

3Trust and Distrust of News SourcesWhat about the ratio of trust to distrust? Another way to think of trust is to compare trust and distrust in a news source. In other words, what is the ratio of people who trust a news outlet to those who distrust it? This ratio is based just on those who have rated the sources as trusted or distrusted, regardless of how well known the source is.

The result is a different list of news brands: The Economist, BBC, NPR, PBS and The Wall Street Journal are among those with the highest ratio of trust to distrust – even if the overall percentages of those who trust them are smaller than for some other sources. Only 34% of online Americans, for example, have heard of The Economist, but there is far more trust (12%) than distrust (2%) when it comes to news about government and politics (20% neither trust nor distrust The Economist). The BBC is recognized by a greater portion of respondents (76%), but is similarly more trusted (36%) than distrusted (7%).

4Trust and Distrust of News Sources, by GroupBeware of drawing distinctions. They may not be significant. Any effort to draw distinctions between different news sources must keep in mind that survey data are subject to a margin of sampling error, and one should use appropriate caution. We will not characterize one source as more trusted than another if the differences between them are so small that they could have occurred just by chance as a result of sampling error. Moreover, many small differences may pass a test of statistical significance but be substantively meaningless. This is the reason why, in the graphics that you see in our report, we group sources in broad categories such as “Sources Trusted by more than 50% of Panelists” and “Sources More Trusted than Distrusted.” For example, The Guardian, Bloomberg and The New Yorker sit next to each other in the “more trusted than distrusted” section of the adjacent chart. Statistically, their ratios of trust over distrust are equivalent (1.7, 1.4 and 1.4, respectively).

Topics: News Audience Trends and Attitudes, News Sources, Newspapers

  1. Photo of Amy Mitchell

    is director of journalism research at Pew Research Center.

Leave a Comment

All comments must follow the Pew Research comment policy and will be moderated before posting.

59 Comments

  1. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    CNN is so liberal it is pathetic

    Reply
    1. Anonymous2 days ago

      Fox News was CREATED for the GOP to have their own organization. Roger Ailes had planned creating a fox news type channel since the Nixon era. 1996 the debut year of fox news and Rupert Murdoch absolutely idolized Ronald Reagan and got Roger Ailes, Who had been involved with the Nixon, Reagan and papa Bush administrations to be the CEO. Ailes at the time said he had left politics behind hahahaha.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    To me the problem is money. Advertising rules. Can’t alienate big advertisers for anything they may do lest they drop their high dollar ads.
    I don’t see any straight forward news outlets in the USA these days.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous1 month ago

    Skewed polling does not create truth.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous2 months ago

    Huh??

    Reply
  5. Anonymous2 months ago

    this really didn’t answer my question!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  6. TomTerrrific7778 months ago

    The problem is all the news outlets dont really tell us news they only give opinions. It makes me sick listening over and over to the lies that are told about by these ordinary people that want to act like they have an insight on everything. To listen to someone defending someone like the Clintons saying they are honest and hardworking what is that? Just a liar on TV. The whole system is rigged America and true Americans (not the fake ones on TV) but true patriots must stand up and fight for the country before the morroons take it over with propaganda. Also one of thing i wish black people would realize voting for radical blacks is just voting for corruption the black politicians are only for there pocket book bt your race is so stupid you cant realize the obvious. Keep held down and keep in poverty. for that is what you like and were you have grown to accept because of your false leaders.

    Reply
    1. Thomas oney6 months ago

      Hillary just made clowns of the Republican Benghazi Committee. If anyone cannot be trusted, it is the Republican Party. They are on the wrong side of every major Issue facing our Citizens and Environment. WAR is the only answer to them. Don’t have or want any Diplomacy skills, in order to please their WAR Industry donors. Against concept of man made Global Warming, even though 97% of Worlds leading Scientists agree. Voted against 7 various Bills introduced by Dems to help Veterans. Want to De-regulate Wall Street so the Banks can screw us again like in 2008. Everything they do is designed to help Corporations and the 1%. Women, Veterans, the Middle class, the Poor, and our Environment are of NO importance to the drastically changed Republican Party. I CHALLENGE any Republican to name me a piece of Legislation their Party has passed in recent years that HELPS the Middle Class. Today’s Republican Party is not only useless, but hurtful. The CAUCUS OF CHAOS. )-:

      Reply
      1. Blucorsair6 months ago

        …and Hillary’s poll numbers continue to drop!

        Reply
      2. Tb746 months ago

        Name a democratic law that has been passed that is not some sort of public subsidy program? I am tired of paying for liberal laws that are passed for programs and benefits to a large majority of people that do not pull their own weight, nor have they earned from their own efforts.

        Reply
      3. Robert6 months ago

        The problem is that the Republican Party is just a carbon copy of the Democratic Party. George Bush did more damage to the country than anyone except Obama with both of them throwing all our best young people into that hellhole called the Middle East. This whole fiasco with the Global Warming taxes and regulations are going to grind our economy into the ground while promising prosperity to all the useful idiots that are demanding higher pay. I know almost nobody that is doing better financially nowadays and our Nation’s debt don’t seem to even register in the brains of those who have this twisted vision of squeezing struggling businesses to make everyone prosperous. Then they are furious that the businesses are cutting back their hiring or going out of business. I am not saying that the most vulnerable citizens should be neglected. The stability of the support of this segment of the population should remain top priority. We need to prevent greater and greater percentages of the population from sliding into unemployment and welfare, however, by making it easier for businesses to make profits, instead of taxing them to death. (That probably doesn’t sound too appealing to all the people who collect their welfare check in the morning and march in the protest rallies waving their Communist flags in the afternoon). I also am not saying that the environment should be neglected either. The focus should be on cleaning up the REAL pollutants and not using scare tactics to fire or intimidate all the scientists who have been victimized by this pseudo-science that has become our nations cultural revolution, that will put China’s history of corruption and persecution of intellectuals to shame.

        Reply
      4. Fred Baer4 months ago

        Then why have more democratic senators and congressmen been convicted of crimes while in office than republicans?

        Reply
  7. Josh10 months ago

    OANN gets my vote many times over.

    Reply
  8. Tap12211 months ago

    How about rating by who prints/posts/states the facts more often than not…

    Reply
  9. Jim12 months ago

    I don’t feel as if I can trust any of them. I was beginning to rely on “BBC World News” but now I see it targets the US.

    Looking for news online I find a confusing array of sites purported to be for news, but every one of them seems to have some axe to grind or something to hide. WorldNews.tv and some of the ‘alternate’ channels seem to have news editors who are raging schizophrenics or depressives. Others like rt.com are tailoring the news they disseminate according to what Vlad Putin tells them to say.

    I wonder if any foreign country has news they can honestly trust. We sure can’t.

    Reply
    1. Jacob Ponting4 months ago

      Jim, would you be able to elaborate on how the BBC ‘targets the US?’

      Reply
  10. David Nopanen1 year ago

    I want a news station that reports what happened. I don’t care about the news anchor’s opinion and I certainly don’t need to hear the “experts” expand the truth.

    I’m a republican and I’m embarrassed for Fox News. They have discredit themselves so often with wild unsubstantiated claims that no one believes them anymore.

    I also think the President of the United States (Republican or Democrat) deserves some level of respect. If I want to hear criticism of a sitting President, I’ll ask a former President.

    Reply
  11. Fred Sullivan1 year ago

    They had to work very hard at the Pew Center to come up with these results.

    Reply
  12. John1 year ago

    You can also add into account the type people that are watching the news. Married people watch fox, taxpayers overwhelming watch fox. The fact that 70% of the people watch liberal news proves that people that are smart enough to be successful or dream of the opportunity is the minority. All the liberal media says what the majority wants to here. More Free Stuff. Government (taxpayers) should pay for healthcare. Government (taxpayers) should pay for higher education. Government (taxpayers) should help with your food cost. Free Stuff right? Easy to say that you deserve something you did not earn under the law of social justice. Married women votes Republican 2 to 1. I trust married women more then single women. They have responsibilities more than just taking care of themselves. They were good enough for someone to WANT marry them.

    Reply
    1. Melonie1 year ago

      Ummm….what? “I only trust woman that men want” is the most horrible thing I have heard today. Really? As if woman are to stupid to think of other things when they are single? No idea why a man’s opinion of a lady would automatically make her better at voting.

      Reply
    2. Shelly1 year ago

      I’m married and have both conservative and liberal views on different issues and don’t understand any of John’s comment. Political opinions and world views don’t change because you get married. As far as healthcare and higher education, it doesn’t inspire productive conversation to be so black and white. For many people that you might call liberal, they are more interested in affordable healthcare and affordable university cost. It is no mystery why this is happening – the system is set up for the profit of few and NOT for the greater good of US citizens. If we want to be competitive in a world market into the future, realizing that we have fallen behind (in too many areas to name here) is a first start. I don’t think any American wants this whether conservative or liberal. It is so sad that currently these issues divide people so much that it seems impossible to sit together and have an ethical discussion that could benefit the greater good AS WELL AS the economy. Believing that a balance can’t be found is the saddest lie. Isn’t that what we are often told? If you care about the environment, the tradeoff is going back to riding horses and lighting candles…ridiculous. If you care about the education of our children, your trying to give away something for free. If you want to change our healthcare system, you are a socialist – just black and white, divisive garbage. And what’s so wrong with being concerned about fair cost for health care and education? Isn’t the most wealthy country in the world smart enough to figure out how make these things affordable? Should getting cancer make you lose your home if you don’t have enough insurance? I would hope the “greatest country in the world” would see that as an injustice. I would argue that we definitely have the resources to figure this thing out. Health and education – to remain a powerful country these things are necessary and I can’t believe that some Americans don’t see the decline as absolutely terrifying. Not simply either/or, but ethically fair for all citizens – this includes future ones as well – our children, grandchildren, etc. It’s a myth that one is the opposite of the other and politicians are using this to keep us divided and arguing instead of holding them ALL accountable, liberals and conservatives. This isn’t about people getting “free stuff”. It’s about American’s basic human rights for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If a person, corporation or system takes advantage of our citizens and knowingly creates an unethical advantage for certain people over others, there are citizens who’s rights are being infringed on. I truly hope the day is coming soon that US citizens unite together, find our common ground and hold our government accountable. When we all focus on our differences, our voice as a people has less power. “Divide and conquer” strategy…worth thinking about when considering some of these things. Many polls indicate that when it comes to the issues that affect us ALL and affect us MOST, we have more in common than we think. Let’s start there and make the government start working for it’s citizens again.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous2 months ago

        Wow! Your comment is monumental! Everything you said, 100%!!

        Reply
        1. Anonymous1 month ago

          that was great my thoughts since i am one of those people who worked all her life making less than the man working next to her. being insulted men i worked with thought sex was part of my job. I raised 3 kids and now have a great grandson who parents are not capable of being decent human beings. i have felt the same way all my life .we have too many selfish people in our world and i hate to say men are the most self centered

          Reply
  13. Tyler1 year ago

    This is very interesting information. However, I would be interested to know how strong the correlation is between a news programs trustworthiness and the accuracy of information presented to the viewing audience. It would also be interesting to see a demographic breakdown of people polled. Just a thought.

    Reply
  14. Greg Roush1 year ago

    “Trust” is too often conflated with “agree with.” I’d be interested in research that could somehow control for confirmation bias.

    Reply
    1. TaylorA1 year ago

      Yep, me too.

      Reply
  15. Robert Stanley1 year ago

    Excellent information, clarifying news source trustworthiness, which may help us discuss facts rather than rationalize our opinion.

    Reply
  16. Doris Rogers-Ripoll1 year ago

    Thank you for this scientific relay of most popular and most trusted media sources. The interesting aspect I’m taking away from it…besides about what I am already aware…is that area of “not familiar with” folks who don’t research, but who simply listen to someone else, whose biases influence their vote…and/or their comments.

    Reply
  17. Tomas Ball2 years ago

    MSNBC was certainly absent from your chart. Interesting…

    Why is it so difficult to present facts without slanting them to protect liberals?
    Liberals have proven that they do not let facts do not get in the way of their political agenda. (For that matter, catching politicians in blatant lies, breaking the law, or completely disregarding the Constitution seems to have little effect on them either. But that might just be because their “news” channel refused to even mention it.)

    Subtitles like “Cable: CNN Ends Its Ratings Slide, Fox Falls Again” – even though FOX has an audience larger than number 2 and 3 COMBINED – calls into question your less than neutral intentions in this representation.

    The reason Fox news has such a huge following is because it is next to impossible to find another news source that does not completely expose an overwhelming liberal bias in their so called “reporting.” It appears this source is not much different.

    Reply
    1. Dan1 year ago

      Tom. Maybe the reason faux news has such a huge following is because they have the political right all to themselves while the rest of the alphabet soup of new sources divides up the other 70%.

      Reply
      1. Survey Says…1 year ago

        Dan, I note that you admit the majority of the alphabet soup of news sources is decidedly liberal. We are making progress, and progress is good when it comes to treating mental illness. However, you are mistaken in your assessment of the political leanings of the population. Only about 20% of Americans are leftists, such as you apparently are. The U.S. is a center-right country. Rather than being conservative, Fox News may simply be less vomit-inducing leftist in its reporting than the remaining cesspool of news outlets that you admit are propagandists for your cause. Perhaps Fox News is the only safe place for the remaining 80% of Americans to go to for straight reporting. Of course, that does not explain the strong showing of democrats who also watch Fox. Perhaps they are just peeking in the windows and hoping to see something scandalous. That is the sort of thing the left gleefully engages in.

        Reply
    2. Bob the bugman1 year ago

      You speak the truth, my friend!

      Reply
    3. Chris1 year ago

      Large followings “cults” also exist in the world wrestling entertainment which has a higher following than FAUX news

      Reply
    4. Joe1 year ago

      I see MSNBC pretty clearly there. Did you not bother to read the actual report they link to?

      Reply
    5. Melonie1 year ago

      Because Fox news is not news. They are legally not allowed to represent themselves as news. All your comment came down to is “Why are liberals being protected? Why can’t I just get News of only MY point of veiw”….ummm that’s not how news works.

      Reply
  18. FJA2 years ago

    This missing links in analyzing the results of TV news media polls, are these factors:
    1. Time spent each day watching TV programs?
    2. Time spent each day watching local TV news channels
    3. Time spent each day watching major news networks
    3. Age of respondent

    I am 89 years old. Since I have a great amount of free time to follow the news I find myself using multiple media outlets reading print media, TV local and network, and especially the internet to research, view videos, read electronic editions of publications, etc.
    For example, I am at this website researching a columnist’s article on truth in the media I was reading on the web publication of my local newspaper.

    I believe that respondents in various age groups have different affinities to interests for news and types of media. This is reflected in the very high percentage of respondents who “have not heard.” As result it is difficult to evaluate decisions on trust or distrust of the media itself as opposed to individual articles and/or authors and TV hosts.

    Reply
  19. Phillip2 years ago

    By looking at your comment section with a couple of exceptions , look at the people that have replied to your skewed so-called research. You cater to the left wing anti-Fox Tv, big CNN , MSNBC, NPR,and Drive by Media crowd. You have your Henchman, Leonard Pitts quoting your latest study that Americans do not trust Fox news or Rush Limbaugh. How do you get your numbers and who pays you to get these numbers ?
    Your studies and opinions are becoming more and more irrelevant as you target Conservative Parties and Media.
    I will never trust or look to your studies for guidance.

    Reply
    1. Gene in L.A.1 year ago

      You don’t watch anything you don’t agree with anyway. I doubt your vow never to look to their studies bothers anyone.

      Reply
  20. Harriett Dunn2 years ago

    As for NPR, I have people in my part of California get nasty about it, but when you ask, “Have you ever listened or watched it or PBS…”, will say vehemently “of course not!”. Our air is poisoned by one very dominant radio station…

    Reply
  21. Ben2 years ago

    Unbiased newscast requires trust of source and exposes facts that the viewer must believe is accountable of an event, verified opinions and statements are what they are – raw information. The eye and perception of the reporter and camera documentation can be bias. I guess you have to depend on your own perception of truth, your depth of knowledge and exposure to the dynamics of the event. I often try to find overseas news to provide balance.

    Reply
  22. m. Schultz2 years ago

    I was devoted to CNN until I started watching Aljazeer. These folks seem to be doing a more inclusive broadcast. They cover a wide range of issues thoroughly. And, best of all they don’t rattle on forever in negative coverage of issues, They seem to show both sides of issues. They are “on the scene” more with actual happenings and they have commentators from more areas. So far. so good.

    Reply
  23. John P McWilliams2 years ago

    Very interesting data; I was shocked to see that only 53% of respondents have heard
    of NPR, what planet do they actually live on?
    John

    Reply
  24. Warren Hopkins2 years ago

    The graph showing the percentage of people who know of the various news medias CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX NEWS, and their level of trust seems to be misleading. The graph seems to imply that FOX NEWS is the least trusted. If that is true is Fox News the least watched of all the other networks. That is what is implied!

    Reply
    1. Anderson2 years ago

      Fox’s news is decidedly slanted whenever it is to the advantage of conservatives or damaging to liberals. You can deny that, but it is true. I want to add that I’ve traveled the country and all “hundreds” of the Murdoch radio stations are even more so oriented because there are hours and hours of Right Wing demagoguery 24/7 being not only piped in, but un-ashamedly pushed by the locals. In my town there are 32 Murdoch stations, most radio with piped in pre recorded music and some with news and entertainment that are decidedly Right Wing with all the usual Henaday, and Levine nightly hate vomit, and the Limbaugh comedy show and local punditry. Any information from opposing opinions is purposely weak, under represented, and viciously trampled on. Is it any wonder that even the Fox followers will admit the limits of their trust.

      Reply
      1. Bob the bugman1 year ago

        Of course most radio talk shows are conservative. No body listens to left wing radio. Can you name one left wing radio host anyone listens too? They all end up at MSNBC. Which no one can stomach watching for more than 5 minutes. MSNBC makes CNN appear conservative.

        Reply
  25. Mary Bernickus2 years ago

    I concur with the findings above, with one caveat: these questions referred to networks (ABC< CNN, etc.) rather than specific news shows. As far back as Ted Koppel of ABC News, Jon Stewart's 'Daily Show' is trusted, and Koppel called Stewart 'the most trusted newsman in America'. (I may have the details of the statement wrong, but the gist of the statement is correct. Perhaps sometime you can survey 'trusted newspeople'. . . . .

    Reply
  26. Louise2 years ago

    I find getting the facts very difficult especially getting all of the news. At dinner time try going from CBS, NBC and ABC, you will be shown all of the same news in the same order repeating almost the same words as if rehearsed, not to mention all they haven’t told us. I hunger for the truth

    Reply
  27. Papa Foote2 years ago

    FYI:

    “…most trusted?…”

    Reply
  28. HillRunner2 years ago

    Lead with #3.
    Include more of the large graphic (it’s great!) that’s buried in the web page at:
    journalism.org/2014/10/21/politi…

    Reply
  29. ruth ferguson2 years ago

    Pew Research really needs to publish how you gather data. Cell phones are unlisted numbers, so do you use all land line numbers? That’s all the old people!

    Reply
    1. Bruce Drake2 years ago

      Here are links to some of the explainers of our methodology: people-press.org/methodology/sam…

      Reply
    2. Amy mitchell2 years ago

      Actually this survey was a web-based survey – so it was taken online rather than by phone. The full methodology is here: journalism.org/2014/10/21/about-…

      Reply
  30. John F. Darcy(BasicFunguist)2 years ago

    Al Jazeera sounding better and better to this information seeker.

    Reply
    1. m. Schultz2 years ago

      I agree with you. I gradually moved to full time Al Jezeera.

      Reply
    2. David Brockett11 months ago

      LOL you must be the last diehard viewer remaining! They are in the toilet and about to be flushed completely!

      Reply
  31. fritz2 years ago

    Disagree that it is complicated. 1. The notion that there is such a thing as a news organization is unlikely, questionable at best. Most popular Buzz generators, maybe. But by now, whatever institutional memory vis a vis Journalism once existed respecting news has certainly been virtually expelled by media’s singular obsession with sales. 2. The attention span and critical thinking capability of both media and its audience render this entire exercise as either misleading or moot or both. No one, and I mean NO. ONE. seems to be willing or able to evidence truth. IF those folks exist realizing the critical importance of the exercise as witnessed by the existence of the 1st amendment, it is somewhere buried DEEP within the Fifth Estate. But 3. CERTAINLY. NOT. WSJ, NPR, BBC, NYT, CNN, less so at NBC, CBS, ABC, and LEAST of all at FOX. So, please, Amy, if your work doesn’t meet your more usual high standards for relevance, please just let it die without further polluting the subject of the poll.

    Reply
  32. Charles Fleeman2 years ago

    I don’t see how the WSJ can have a number of 41 for those who neither trust nor distrust in chart 45, but have red boxes across the board in chart 1. If every survey group trusts the WSJ more than the other two choices (chart 1), how could it ever have more that neither trust nor distrust overall? (chart 45)

    Explanation?

    Reply
    1. Amy mitchell2 years ago

      In chart 1 the red boxed indicate greater trust than distrust across the various ideological groups. It does not factor in the “Neither’s.” (the 41% in chart 45).

      Reply
    2. Anderson2 years ago

      Look at the subscription cost of WSJ and probable patrons. I have no ax to grind here, just wondering about numbers of readers responding that follow the various news sources. TV, local journals, and Radio news is readily available everywhere, but you have to go out of your way to get to the WSJ, same it true for some of the other subscriber sources mentioned in the survey.

      Reply