Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Fides Quae Creditur

Trust is a funny thing.  Nobody much trusts the clergy these days, and it's not hard to see why; smart people never trusted Congress, and rightly not.

But do you know who people do trust?  The TV news channels.  For reasons that frankly escape us, people watch 'em and talk about 'em and act on what they see and hear.  We suppose this is some sort of atavism, a vestigial reflex from the old days when Walter Cronkite and the New York Times were accorded a cultural standing second only to, well, to your government and your minister.

Those, of course, were the days when the news media made a great show of parading their even-handed probity, their -- in a word that seems positively quaint -- "objectivity."  Cue the nostalgic violins.  We live in different times now.

And so even America's brief for talking heads is in decline, according to a recent poll by something called the Public Policy Polling Center.  The most fascinating result of the poll, though, is how the trust breaks down along partisan lines:
We find once again this year that Democrats trust everything except Fox, and Republicans don't trust anything other than Fox. Democrats put the most faith in PBS (+61 at 72/11), followed by NBC (+45 at 61/16), MSNBC (+39 at 58/19), CBS (+38 at 54/16), CNN (+36 at 57/21), ABC (+35 at 51/16), and Comedy Central (+10 at 38/28). Out of the non-Fox channels Republicans have the most faith in PBS at -21 (27/48),  followed by NBC (-48 at 18/66), CNN (-49 at 17/66), ABC (-56 at 14/70), MSNBC (-56 at 12/68), CBS (-57 at 15/72), and Comedy Central (-58 at 8/66).
It is hardly surprising that Republicans place so much trust in Fox, nor that others decline to do likewise.  But -- and this is important to note -- among Americans overall, as well as Democrats, it is PBS that is most trusted. (And Fox, by far, is the least trusted overall.)  Please do remember this the next time some GOP congressman (or presidential candidate) starts to make noise about defunding public broadcasting, and ask yourself why.

We regret that this poll restricts itself to television news, as we would very much like to see where National Public Radio falls on the scale of trust.

But, parenthetically, do you know how old Father Anonymous is?  Forget the grey hair, potbelly, and reading glasses; there's a better marker of superannuation these days.  He is old enough to be genuinely shocked that the poll treats  Comedy Central as a source on par with, say, ABC News.

1 comment:

Just Saying said...

Yes but you're forgetting that for at least the past ten years, The Daily Show and its spinoff the Colbert Report have been widely perceived as being the only noticable voices consistently "calling BS" (as the kids might say) on the political discourse. On all the others you mention (and, sadly, sweet NPR) there's far too much "Democrats say, this, Republicans say, this, a "pundit" we dug up says, this, a paid "think tank" flunky says, this, (maybe every once in a great while someone like an economic Nobel laureate says, this)... in the end, who's to say who's right? Indeed... certainly not us. Gravitas, America, unity, Beltway cocktail party." TDS/Colbert are pretty much the ONLY media outlets (besides the openly partisan Fox News and the couple of openly partisan shows on MSNBC) who do anything OTHER than that... and they're also the only highly visible place you can go (TDS in particular) to find anybody clearly consistently calling the other guys out on that. The networks and couple of remaining papers and dear old NPR can "fact check" all day long, but for real, pull-few-punches media criticism... where on your television dial can you go but Jon Stewart and friends on Comedy Central?