Younger adults trust information from social media almost as much as from news outlets

Americans have long trusted information from local and national news organizations far more than information on social media sites. This is still the case today, except among the youngest adults. Adults under the age of 30 now trust information from social media sites almost as much as information from national news outlets.

A chart showing that US adults under the age of 30 are now almost as likely to trust information on social media sites as information from national news outlets.

In a recent Pew Research Center poll, half of 18-29 year olds in the United States say they have some or a lot of trust in the information they get from social media sites, just below the 56% who say the same about information from national news organizations, but slightly below the 62% who say the same about information from local news organizations.

To examine Americans’ trust in information from national and local news organizations and social media sites, Pew Research Center surveyed 12,147 US adults from July 18 to August 21, 2022. Everyone who took part in the survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel recruited through national random sampling of residential addresses. In this way, almost all US adults have a chance to choose. The survey is weighted to be representative of the US adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, political party affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the methodology of the ATP. Here are the questions used for this analysis, along with the answers and their methodology.

The Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the State of News, Information, and Journalism in the Digital Age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The proportion of adults under 30 expressing at least some trust in information from social media is at its highest level (level with summer 2019), while the proportion expressing trust in national news is at its lowest level (level with last year ). In fact, the 6 percentage point gap between the proportion of young adults who trust social media sites and the proportion who trust national news outlets is the smallest for any age group since the center first asked the question in 2016.

Adults in all other age groups continue to trust significantly less information from social media sites than information from national and local news outlets. This is largely due to their much lower level of trust in the information they receive on social media sites. While half of adults under 30 have at least some trust in the information on these pages, the proportion drops to 36% for those aged 30 to 49, 25% for those aged 50 to 64 and those aged 65 and over only to 20%. On the other hand, older Americans, particularly those over 50, are often more willing than younger Americans to express trust in national and local news organizations.

Local news outlets are the most trusted of all age groups, but Americans’ overall trust in these media is at its lowest level in recent years. While a large majority of Americans (71%) have some or a great deal of trust in the information they receive from local news outlets, this has fallen from a peak of 85% in 2019 and 2017. This decline is evident across many demographic groups and across both political parties.

Democrats and Republicans differ greatly in trust in the news media, especially national media

A chart showing Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to trust national news outlets.

Republicans and Democrats are far apart when it comes to trust in the news, especially national news organizations.

About three-quarters of Democrat-leaning Democrats and independents (77%) say they have at least some confidence in the information they get from national news outlets, 35 percentage points more than the 42% of Republicans and Republican-leaning people saying the same thing. This is consistent with previous research by the Center showing that the party is the strongest factor in broader public attitudes towards the news media.

This year’s gap, while still wide, is slightly narrower than 2021’s 43-point gap, reflecting a slight increase in confidence among Republicans. This wide partisan divide in recent years has been largely caused by an overall lower level of trust among Republicans.

The gap between Democrats and Republicans in their trust in local news organizations and social media sites isn’t nearly as wide as the gap for national news organizations. Democrats are 16 points more likely than Republicans to have at least some confidence in the information they get from local news outlets (79% vs. 63%), and 11 points more likely to feel the same about social -Media sites say (38% vs. 27). %).

Note: Here are the questions used for this analysis, along with the answers and their methodology.

Jacob Liedke is a research associate specializing in journalism and media at the Pew Research Center.

Jeffrey Gottfried is a senior researcher specializing in journalism research at the Pew Research Center.

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