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Overcoming indifference: What attitudes toward news tell us about building trust

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    Sabah, Malaysia. March 4, 2017: Local newspapers and tabloids on display outside a local bookstore at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. By Sylvia sooyoN is licensed under the Shutterstock License

People who are least trusting towards news are not necessarily those who are the most vocal critics about news coverage, but those who are indifferent to how news is practised, according to a new report from the Reuters Institute.

The key finding is one of several highlighted in the report – Overcoming indifference: What attitudes toward news tell us about building trust – the third instalment from the Trust in News project.

The report is based on new survey data from approximately 2,000 people polled each in the UK, Brazil India and the US.

The research also showed that people who who generally lack trust in news tend to be older, less educated, less interested in politics, and less urban. They are also more likely to be men in three of the four countries covered.

The findings also revealed that attitudes toward political leaders strongly correlate with levels of trust in news. In India and the UK, those who evaluated Narendra Modi or Boris Johnson favourably were more trusting towards news. In Brazil and the US, those with favourable views about Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump had much lower trust.

Large minorities in all four countries have very negative views about how they think journalists do their jobs, including allowing personal opinions to influence coverage, accepting payments from sources, or seeking to manipulate the public. Indifference, not hostility is the primary challenge for journalists when faced with the task of increasing trust in news.

Dr Benjamin Toff, Senior Research Fellow and lead author of the report, said: “Our research shows that those who most consistently lack trust in news are often those who are also least well-equipped to differentiate between brands and less interested in doing so.

“The untrusting default to scepticism, even cynicism, about news sources generally and hold a dim view about how most journalists do their jobs.

“Winning over this sizable, disengaged, and indifferent audience is a distinct challenge from building trust with the loudest and often most partisan voices who are typically the most outspoken critics of journalism.”

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