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Social Media, Trust, and Polarisation: Digital News Report 2017

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Audiences are dissatisfied with the quality of news and comment generally, and on social media in particular, the sixth Digital News Report reveals.

The report, from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, is based on an online survey of 70,000 people in 36 countries. It found that although over half of respondents (54%) use social media as a source of news, only a quarter (24%) think social media does a good job in separating fact from fiction, compared to 40% for the news media.

In countries like the US (20%/38%), and the UK (18%/41%), people are twice as likely to trust the news media. Only in Greece do more people think social media is doing a better job, primarily because they have very low confidence in news media (28%/19%).

Trust in the media and political bias

Trust in the media varies significantly across the 36 countries in the survey. The proportion that states they trust the news is highest in Finland (62%), but lowest in Greece and South Korea (23%).

In most countries, we find a strong connection between distrust in the media and perceived political bias. This is particularly true in countries with high levels of political polarisation. In the US, political polarisation means that respondents are more likely to trust news sources they regularly use (53%) than the news in general (38%). In the UK it seems that the fallout from the Brexit vote in June 2016, has led to a fall of 7% in overall trust in the media from 50% to 43%.

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