One of the themes that ran throughout Donald Trump’s presidential campaign—and has continued to manifest itself since Election Day—is the untrustworthiness of the mainstream media, which he has described repeatedly as “dishonest scum,” among other things.
Was Trump’s repudiation of the mainstream press a response to the lack of trust that many of his supporters already had in the traditional media, or did his attacks on them help fuel this mistrust? The answer to that remains unknown. But what is abundantly clear is that the vast majority of Trump voters don’t trust the media at all.
Research released recently by Edelman, a global communications and public relations firm, shows that trust in the media among all Americans is at an all-time low, falling to just 35%. But it is even lower still among those who described themselves as Trump supporters.
According to Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer study, only 21% of Trump voters said they trusted the media before the election. After the election, that number had fallen even further, to just 15%. In other words, 85% of Trump supporters now don’t trust the media. By comparison, more than half of Clinton voters said they do.
The distrust that Trump voters feel for the media is matched by their lack of faith in government, according to the Edelman poll. Only 26% of Trump supporters said after the election that they trusted the government to do what is right. By contrast, almost 50% of Clinton voters said that they trust the government.
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These figures help explain the popularity of Trump’s campaign pitch that he was going to shake up the Washington establishment because he was an outsider. And they reinforce the strategic decisions he and his senior adviser Steve Bannon, the former chairman of Breitbart News, made to do an end-run around the traditional media by using Twitter (TWTR) and other platforms.
The Edelman study also notes that distrust of media and government is part of a larger theme in the U.S., with most of those surveyed saying they don’t feel that the U.S. political or social system as a whole is serving their needs.
The firm asked respondents whether they agreed with statements such as “The system is biased in favor of elites,” “Hard work is not rewarded,” and “No confidence in current leaders.” They found that 57% of U.S. adults surveyed believe that the system is failing them.
A majority of those who responded to the study said that they were either concerned or fearful that globalization was damaging the economy, that social values were being eroded, and that immigration was damaging national culture. Many were also concerned or fearful that technological innovations were “leading to changes that are not good for people like me.”
Trump voters were twice as likely as Clinton voters to believe that immigration and globalization were bad, the study found. And far more believed that traditional social values were being eroded by both of those forces.
In conclusion, the Edelman study argues that Donald Trump “won the fear vote.” More than 65% of Trump voters were fearful about the future and believed that the system is failing them, whereas only 45% of Clinton voters agreed with those statements.