Do most Americans trust their news? 

Written by

Matt George

Partner, Head of Research

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Written by

Annie Phifer

Research Manager

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Written by

Jessa Scott-Johnson

Senior Director - Research

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Written by

Eunice Yau

Director – Research

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05.29.24

According to a new study from the Media Insight Project (a collaboration between the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago), news organizations have a long way to go to shore up trust among American adults. 

To understand Americans’ consumption of and trust in media, the Media Insight Project surveyed 2,468 U.S. adults from March 21-25, 2024. What they found: even as the American public heavily relies on national and local news organizations for their information about elections, most adults are concerned about inaccuracies or misinformation in the news. 

Americans reported high media engagement: nearly half of U.S. adults (49%) follow presidential elections extremely or very closely, with a further 29% following somewhat closely. When it comes to where they get this news, Americans turn to national news most often (50% said always or frequently), followed by local news (39% always or frequently). 

Yet despite this reliance on national news outlets, American adults are incredibly worried about news accuracy. More than half (53%) are extremely or very concerned about news outlets reporting inaccurate information or disinformation during the 2024 election. Another 30% were somewhat concerned, and just 16% were not very or not at all concerned. They also didn’t trust the media to verify information before reporting – a full 81% were at least somewhat concerned that news outlets would report unconfirmed or unverified information during election coverage. American adults also thought coverage would be biased – 44% were extremely or very concerned that news outlets would report factual information that favors one side of an issue. To round out this worry, nearly three-quarters (72%) of U.S. adults were at least somewhat concerned that news outlets would use generative AI to create stories.  

Fortunately, the tech world is paying attention to adults’ generative AI worries. Recently, Meta said that AI-generated election content is not happening at a “systemic level” – and reiterated their commitment to labeling AI-generated content on their site. Meta joins others in keeping in line with best practices developed by the Partnership on AI, an AI research nonprofit. 

Should news organizations make the same public commitment? Americans are clear that news organizations are facing a trust problem leading up to the election, so taking a public stance could go a long way to increase Americans’ confidence. To shore up public trust, news organizations should correct any inaccuracies quickly and clearly – and, to assuage AI concerns, make public pledges to disclose when generative AI is used – or to never use it at all – in reporting. 

See full poll results here: https://apnorc.org/projects/election-insights-understanding-public-preferences-for-news-coverage-for-2024/?doing_wp_cron=1715718138.6949689388275146484375