Who do we trust? Why do we trust some people and organisations more than others? These are the kinds of questions that regular YouGov polls on trust help us to answer, at least in the first case. And the latest survey, coming in the wake of the upheavals at the BBC, brings intriguing results. But it still brings bad news for some in the media, as a look at the figures will show.
Trust in the Beeb’s news journalists fell from 57% on the previous survey to 44%, but this was still the best performance by any part of the media. ITV scored 41%, with the “quality” press (Times, Telegraph, Independent, Guardian) close behind with 38%, although the latter two had lost 10% and 5% respectively. Mid market papers like the Mail scored 18%, and the red-tops a bare 10%.
So all that the assault on the BBC appears to have done is to drag broadcasters a little closer to the rant merchants. As the mid-market and red-top numbers are relatively static, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that those for the quality papers, and especially the broadcasters, will recover over time, potentially back to the BBC’s previous level of over 70%.
What should that tell us? Well, the public are not stupid. And, while they might believe that the BBC has to get its house in order, they don’t put any more trust in those doing the kicking. Why might that be? Simples. Hacks and pundits on papers like the Mail and Sun might think they are dead clever slipping smear and dishonesty into their attacks, but the public can see through it all.
So those papers do not gain any trust from the Newsnight fallout. No matter how much of his irrational and boiling hatred the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre directs at his greatest perceived foe, his numbers remain rooted to the deck. Even those readers with whom he has that legendary “conversation” don’t trust him even half as much as they trust the Beeb at its lowest ebb.
But who do people trust more than the media? Well, how about Family Doctors (82%), Teachers (70%), Judges (62%), and Local Police Officers (69%)? Partly this is because, in three out of those four categories, respondents are likely to know those people and interact with them at least occasionally, and partly reflects their consistently professional behaviour and approach.
Part of that is down to discipline, part to their ability to listen and empathise, part to their perceived fairness and lack of bias, and, dare one say it, a significant part of it is down to those groups not being perceived to be pushing their own agenda, but serving the wider community, rather than greedily and selfishly pleasing themselves and not being overly fussed about the consequences.
These are readily learnable lessons. So don’t expect the press to learn them.