Much has been made of the media’s role during a testy political season in the western world over the past year – and not just because of a series of “fake news” articles and websites that popped up during the U.S. elections. Trust in traditional media has also fallen to record lows.
Yet a new survey by the online polling firm YouGov finds that faith in news organizations is holding up in Germany – which faces its own federal elections this fall – better than most.
Most Germans continue to trust all three major forms of journalism – television, print and online sources – according to the survey, which polled 1,000 people in each of seven European countries and the United States. More than 60 percent approve of television news and more than 50 percent trust newspapers. The only other countries with that kind of blanket trust across media outlets were the Scandinavian countries Denmark, Finland and Norway.
By contrast, countries like France, Britain and the United States each have their favorites. The French and Americans have more faith in newspapers but less in television. The British are the opposite, while all three tend to distrust online news sources.
Online news is treated with the most skepticism.
It’s not that Germans aren’t skeptical. The YouGov survey breaks down the answers into four categories – does the public trust media “a lot,” “a fair amount,” “not very much,” or “not at all.”
The highest trust factor gets short shrift in Germany too. Just 17 percent say they trust television news “a lot,” for example, and that’s the highest rating of the three forms. Those with a high degree of trust in newspapers or online media are in the single digits.
But take the aggregates in the survey, and Germans are still mostly optimistic when it comes to their news organizations. Television news, which is led by public broadcasters ARD and ZDF as well as the private 24-hour cable news station NTV, gets the best ratings. The survey found that 63 percent of Germans trust either “a fair amount” or “a lot” what their TV news tells them.
Traditional newspapers, which are still more read in Germany than in other countries, are also held in pretty high esteem: 53 percent said they trusted newspapers, compared to 41 percent who are inclined to doubt them.
As in most countries polled, online news is treated with the most skepticism: 48 percent of Germans said they trust the medium, compared to 46 percent who don’t. It’s a number within the survey’s 3-percent margin of error.
That’s still a more positive rating than most larger western countries. Britain, France and the United States all have less faith in online media sources.
When it comes to traditional television and print, the situation in most countries is more of a mixed bag in terms of public confidence.
Britain, for example, has the biggest swing of any country polled. Television, home of the BBC, is trusted by 61 percent of the population, but newspapers have their work cut out for them.
In fact, Britain’s newspaper industry wins the award for the least trusted media sector in all eight countries surveyed. The poll found 70 percent of Brits say they don’t trust print publications, including 26 percent who say they don’t trust them “at all.”
The numbers are flipped in the United States and France, although the trend isn’t quite as a extreme as in Britain: 54 percent of Americans and 55 percent of the French are skeptical of television news. Newspapers are seen more positively, getting a 50-percent approval rating in the United States and 47 percent in France.
And while Germany’s trust is high, Scandinavia’s are highest, especially when it comes to television and newspaper sources.
The most trusted sector across the eight countries? That award goes to Finnish television: a whopping 85 percent of Finns approve.
Christopher Cermak is an editor covering politics and finance with Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. To contact the author: [email protected]