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UK has second-lowest level of trust in press in survey of 24 countries

Only Egypt reported lower levels of trust in the press than the UK.

By Aisha Majid

UK newspaper front pages. Picture: Shutterstock

The UK has one of the lowest levels of trust in news according to a new survey conducted in 24 countries.

The research conducted by King’s College London as part of the World Values Survey which takes a broad look at social, political, economic, religious and cultural values around the world, found that 13% of people in the UK trusted the press.

Only Egypt ranked lower with 8% of people in the north African country saying they had confidence in the press.

Between 1981, when the World Values Survey began, and 1990, the share of the British public reporting they had confidence in the press halved, falling from 30% to 14%. Since then, trust has failed to recover.

Other wealthy nations reported much higher levels of trust in the news. Over a third of Germans (36%), and 30% of French, Spaniards and Americans said that they trusted the press.

While a number of countries including the US, Australia and Canada previously echoed the UK trend of declining levels of trust in the press to the mid-2000s, unlike the UK they have seen small increases in trust since then.

Professor Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, said: "This is not a new crisis of trust in the UK press, rather a long-term chronic problem, with confidence at rock-bottom levels at least since the 1990s.

"These international studies put that in context – the public in countries like Canada, Norway and Sweden are three times as likely to have confidence in their press than we do here. Only Egypt scores lower than us, despite coming 168 out of 180 countries in UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Index."

Low levels of trust in the press in the UK were reflective of low levels of faith in the media overall in the country. A quarter of UK respondents (25%) said they had confidence in television, lower than other comparable countries such as Germany (32%) and Canada (36%).

The research, for which Ipsos surveyed some 3,000 UK adults between March and September last year, also uncovered generational divides. A quarter (25%) of the silent generation (roughly those born between 1928 and 1945) said they had confidence in the press – more than any other age cohort and compared to 5% of Gen Z.

The silent generation was also the only generation to see an increase since the mid-2000s in the share of people saying they had a favourable opinion of the press. Other generations instead largely reported no change in the share of people holding a negative view of the press in the last two decades.

Duffy said: "While this is a longstanding challenge, there are worrying signs of more acute problems to come, particularly in the extraordinarily low level of confidence among Gen Z, the youngest adult generation, at just 5%.

"And this isn’t just Gen Z being unsure what the press means these days, or not having a view because it is not relevant to them – over four in ten of them actively say they have no confidence at all, the highest of any generation.

"And this still matters, even if Gen Z are getting their news from a much wider range of sources than the traditional press. Key news brands should be important indicators of quality and veracity in our much messier information environment, but if younger generations don’t see it like that, we’ll lose a core societal benefit of the press."

Other surveys have similarly found low levels of trust of UK media in the UK. The Edelman trust barometer for 2022 found 37% of people in the UK trusted the media – up two points from 2021 but among the lowest levels in the world.

Ipsos' most recent annual Veracity Index meanwhile found that while trust in journalists was higher than ever, they remained among the least-trusted professions included in the survey. Last year's Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that just over a third (34%) of people in the UK trusted the news, a large fall from the 51% reporting faith in the media in 2015.

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