Young adults may have more confidence in what they read on social media, but local news outlets like radio and television stations continue to hold the most trust among the next generation of information consumers. Just-released data from Pew finds that the older someone is, the bigger the gap is between social media and local news outlets. Overall, 71% of those surveyed by Pew said they have “some” or “a lot” of trust in the information they get from local news outlets. That is more than double the 33% that said the same for social media. National outlets like cable news channels or network TV sit between the two. Local news holds a ten-point advantage on national news, Pew says.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to anyone who has spent any time with it is that social media – considered fairly unreliable among anyone age 30 and older – is increasingly viewed as a credible information source by younger adults. Pew says half of Gen Zs say they have “some” or “a lot” of trust in the information they get off of social media sites. That is only six points behind national news organizations. That is the smallest gap between the two for any age group since Pew began asking this question in 2016. The gap between local news and social media sits at 12-points.
Pew Senior Researcher Jeffrey Gottfried says the share of adults under 30 who express at least some trust in information from social media is at its highest level to date -- tied with summer 2019 -- while the share with trust in national news is at its lowest level -- tied with last year.
“Local news outlets are the most trusted among all age groups, but trust in these outlets among Americans overall is at its lowest point in recent years,” Gottfried writes in an analysis of the data. While a large majority (71%) of Americans have some or a lot of trust in the information they get from local news outlets, he says that number is down from a high of 85% in both 2019 and 2017. “This decline has occurred across many demographic groups and in both political parties,” Gottfried says.
About three-quarters of Democrats say they have at least some trust in the information they get from national news outlets. But after four years of President Trump beating the “fake news” drum, Pew says only 42% of Republicans say they have trust in national news organizations despite a growing number of conservative media outlets.
The partisan trust gap is a smaller 16-points when it comes to having faith in local news. Pew says 79% of Democrats have at least some trust in the information they get from local news outlets compared to 63% of Republicans. And both groups are pretty skeptical of social media, although Republicans are more so. Pew says while 27% of Republicans say they have some trust in the information they learn from social media, 38% of Democrats say the same.
The findings are based on a Pew online survey of 12,147 U.S. adults from July 18 to Aug. 21. The results are weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories.