Americans Trust Network TV Over Trump for Coronavirus Updates, Poll Finds

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Some 59 percent of adults say they have "a lot" or "some" trust in broadcasters, while 43 percent say the same about the President's messaging, a Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult survey shows.

As nearly all of the public sphere in the United States — from theaters to festivals as well as restaurants and bars — temporarily shutters amid a coronavirus pandemic, more Americans may look to tune in to regular federal or state government pressers or televised town halls. 

But more U.S. adults are likely to say they trust what they're hearing from network news than the guidance from President Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, a Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll finds. (The survey was conducted from March 12 to 15 among a nationally representative sample of 2,200 U.S. adults.)

The new poll surveyed attitudes about media trustworthiness, as well as broader opinion about institutions disseminating information about the pandemic. 

Some 59 percent of U.S. adults surveyed say that they have "a lot" or "some" trust in what network news broadcasters like ABC, NBC and CBS are reporting about the pandemic, as opposed to 43 percent who say the same about cable news networks like Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.

Network news had similar trustworthiness figures across age groups. Some 51 percent of Americans in the 18-29 age group say they have "a lot" or "some" trust in network news reporting on the virus, while 59 percent of adults in the 30-44 age group, 56 percent in the 45-54 age group and 61 percent in the 55-64 age group reply the same. 

Broadcast news still outpaces cable news among total viewers in the U.S. For 2019, ABC's World News Tonight averaged 8.5 million total viewers while NBC's Nightly News averaged 7.7 million and CBS Evening News followed with 5.6 million. (Fox News' Hannity, a top show on cable news for comparison, might average 4 million in certain weeks.)

Meanwhile, 43 percent of the American public in the THR/Morning Consult poll say they have "a lot" or "some" trust in what Trump has been saying about the virus, while 41 percent say the same about Pence. Generally, older Americans had more trust in what the White House was saying about the coronavirus. 

About 30 percent of adults in the 18-29 age group say they have "a lot" or "some" trust in what the President is saying about the virus, compared with 38 percent of adults in the 30-44 age group, 48 percent in the 45-54 age group and 52 percent in the 55-64 age group. 

About 57 percent of respondents say they placed either "a lot" or "some" trust in newspaper reporting about coronavirus, with the same percentage saying the same about radio sources. (There wasn't major differences in age groups with regard to having trust in papers' coronavirus reporting: 50 percent of respondents in the 18-29 age group say they trust papers "a lot" or "some" while 54 percent say the same in the 55-64 age group.)

Digital-only sources were slightly less trusted by the broader American public for virus updates. About 47 percent of respondents trusted "some" of what they heard about the pandemic from online news sites and 28 percent say they have the same measure of trust from podcasts. About 30 percent of respondents say they have some trust in what they hear about coronavirus on social media generally.

Americans have greater trust in public health agencies to disseminate coronavirus information. Some 81 percent of respondents say they have "a lot" or "some" trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updates, while 73 percent say the same about the World Health Organization's information. (For more detail, the THR/Morning Consult poll result crosstabs can be found here.)