Below are specific findings about news media attitudes and habits in Italy. The findings come from a Pew Research Center survey about news media and politics across eight Western European countries conducted from Oct. 30 to Dec. 20, 2017. The survey covered five countries in the north (Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom) and three in the south (France, Italy and Spain).
Views of the news media in Italy
The sense of importance of and trust in the news media vary considerably by country. In general, adults in northern European countries – for example, Sweden and Germany – are more likely to say the news media are very important and that they trust the news media, while people in France and Italy are the least likely to say this.
Only about a third of Italian adults (34%) consider the news media very important to society, and about three-in-ten (29%) say they trust the news media. This includes just 3% who trust the news media a lot.
In most of the countries surveyed, people who hold populist views are less likely to say the news media are important and to trust the news media than people who don’t hold populist views. In general, the differences in these attitudes about the news media are small when comparing between people on the left and right of the ideological spectrum.
These populist differences emerge in Italy as well: 26% of people with populist views say they trust the news media, compared with 34% of those without populist views. On the question of importance, 29% of those with populist views say the news media are very important for society in Italy, compared with 43% of those with non-populist views.
Main sources used for news in Italy
When it comes to the news sources people say they turn to most frequently, the divides between adults with and without populist leanings are not as strong as those seen for attitudes about the news media more generally. And in the southern countries, there tend to be larger divides in main news source preference between people on the left and right of the ideological spectrum than between those with and without populist views.
In Italy, those on the left and right differ substantially in the media source turned to most for news. Among those on the ideological right, Mediaset News is the most cited main news source, while people on the left most often name Rai News.
Where users place outlets’ ideologies, on the right and on the left
For many of the news outlets across the eight countries, people who use an outlet to get news tend to think the outlet is closer to their own left-right ideological position. In Italy, this is true for five outlets asked about: Rai News, La7, La Repubblica, Corriere della Sera and Il Fatto Quotidiano. For these outlets, news users on either the right or left tend to place them closer to their own ideology. For one news outlet – Mediaset News – right-aligned and left-aligned news users generally agree on its placement. Il Giornale and Libero are not included in this analysis, because they did not have a large enough sample of left or right users to analyze.
In general, where the public places an outlet tends to differ from where the average audience actually sits ideologically. For each of the news outlets asked about in the survey, the average audience (based on self-reported usage) tends to fall near the ideological center. People who have heard of each outlet, however, tend to place the outlet either farther to the left or farther to the right than the actual ideological position of the outlet’s audience.
This is the case for some, but not all, outlets in Italy. Libero, for example, has an audience that sits at about the middle of the left-right spectrum (3.6 on the 0-to-6 scale), but when asked to place the news outlet on the same left-right scale, people who have heard of Libero place it farther to the right (at 4.2). But other outlets show little difference: La7 has an audience near the ideological center (3.2 on the 0-to-6 scale), and people who have heard of La7 place it near the center of the left-right spectrum as well (at 3.1).
Trust in news media outlets
In seven of the eight countries surveyed, the most trusted news outlet asked about is the public news organization in each country. In Italy, around two-thirds of adults (65%) say they trust the public broadcaster Rai News.
As with trust in the news media generally, trust in specific outlets varies by populist leanings, with those who hold populist views expressing lower levels of trust than those who don’t.
In Italy, these differences emerge for some outlets. For example, those with populist leanings are 23 percentage points less likely than those with non-populist views to say they trust La Repubblica. Trust is also divided along the left-right ideological spectrum in Italy – those who place themselves on the left of the 0-to-6 point ideological scale are 35 percentage points less likely than people on the right to trust Mediaset News.
Social media usage and views
Many people in Western Europe get news through social media, with Facebook cited as the most widely used platform for news.
A majority of adults in Italy (64%) get news on social media, including half who get news on social media daily. Facebook is the most common social network used for news. In Italy, young people (those 18 to 29 years old) are more likely to get news on social media daily than those 50 and older (74% vs. 41%).
About half or more social media news consumers in each of the eight countries surveyed say they are familiar with the sources they see on social media. Still, sizeable minorities say they typically do not pay attention to the source of the news they encounter there.
Social media news consumers in Italy are similar to other Western Europeans – 51% are familiar with the news sources they find on social media, but roughly a third (32%) do not pay attention to the sources there.
Find out more
Read the methodology and full report for more on Italy and the other seven Western European countries included in the survey. For global data on media habits and attitudes see the report “Publics Globally Want Unbiased News Coverage, but Are Divided on Whether Their News Media Deliver.”