Who’s Faking, Trump or the News?

From Bill Moyers:  http://billmoyers.com/story/whos-faking-trump-or-the-news/

By Todd Gitlin
May 1, 2017

For getting a sense of what Americans think, decent polls, for all their deficiencies, are better than wild guesses. So consider the findings of a major poll that last month looked into the question of whom to believe, Trump or the major media. It ain’t pretty.

First of all, how many Americans think that media are responsible for “fake news”? According to this poll, commissioned from Langer Research Associates by ABC News/The Washington Post, 52 percent of Americans think that news organizations “regularly” produce false stories. Regularly.

True, that’s not as big a number as the 59 percent of the same sample who think the Trump administration “regularly” makes false claims. Even factoring in the poll’s sampling error, the news organizations would seem to be slightly — but only slightly — more credible than the White House falsehood machine. How much of a victory is that?

Curiously, 40 percent of the same sample think that it’s a bigger problem that mainstream news organizations produce false stories than that the Trump administration makes false claims. Forty-three percent think it’s the other way round. Eleven percent think they’re equally at fault. Allowing for the sampling error, it’s a wash. Small comfort for media, I’d say.

Another poll (which asks about “national political media,” not “news organizations,” but such are the vagaries of the disorderly polling business), gives a result even less flattering to the news media as a whole:

Trump’s critiques of the media, which he commonly derides as “fake news” also seems to have struck a chord with Americans. A plurality (42 percent) said they see fake news in national newspapers or network news broadcasts more than once or about once a day. About 3 in 10 (31 percent) said they saw fake news from those sources once every few days, once a week or slightly less often than that.

Unsurprisingly, this poll was touted by Breitbart News.

Another poll, this one by The Economist/Yougov in February, asked the question more pointedly, and found a more dramatic tilt toward media over Trump. Their question was:

“When the media challenges Donald Trump about whether things he and his Administration say are correct, or not correct, do you feel… (A) Trump and the Administration usually turn out to be right on the facts; (B) The media usually turns out to be right on the facts; (C) Not sure.”

Thirty-one percent trusted Trump more, 39 percent trusted the media more.

Neither poll specified which news organizations the pollsters were asking about. That’s a serious deficiency. Presumably, respondents were welcome to include, among “news organizations,” Fox, Breitbart, Infowars and other right-wing vehicles that I have been calling the Vortex — VOices of RT-Wing EXtremism. So what are we entitled to conclude about the state of national disbelief? To judge historical tendencies, we have to resort some educated guesswork. So here goes.

It was in 1972 that Gallup started asking Americans how much “trust” (sometimes “confidence”) they had in news media generally, which the pollster sometimes labeled a bit more specifically as “newspapers, TV and radio.” For 35 years, between 1972 and 2007, the total of “great deal” and “fair amount” always stood at 50 percent or higher.  Other pollsters asked comparable questions, posing the alternatives a bit differently: high, medium and low confidence. Between 1977 and 1983, the total of “high” and “medium” confidence soared as high as 89 percent.

Continue reading at:  http://billmoyers.com/story/whos-faking-trump-or-the-news/

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