Trust in UK news coverage has grown during pandemic, research suggests

Trust in UK news coverage has grown during pandemic, research suggests
Paying for news remains a minority activity, with just 8 per cent saying they currently pay for any online news

Trust in news coverage has grown in the UK during the pandemic, research suggests.

A poll in January found 36 per cent of people in the UK “trust most news most of the time,” up from 28 per cent in January last year.

The Reuters Institute Digital News Report – which is based on an online survey of 92,000 people in 46 media markets, including a survey of 2,039 people in the UK – said trust in news is up in almost all countries.

Finland remains the country with the highest levels of overall trust (65 per cent), and the USA now has the lowest levels (29 per cent), the survey found.

The report said while overall trust in the media is up eight percentage points to 36 per cent in the UK, it should be noted that this is still 14 points lower than before the Brexit referendum in 2016, with the media and social media often blamed for fostering divisions.

The report said research shows how trust in particular brands often splits along both political and/or generational lines.

“We also find that political partisans from both sides feel that UK media coverage has been unfair to them,” it said.

Broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV, Sky News, and Channel 4, that are required to meet strict impartiality standards, remain the most trusted news brands, followed by national broadsheet titles, the research found.

Lead author of the report, Nic Newman, said: “The focus on factual reporting during the Covid-19 crisis may have made the news seem more straightforward, while the story has also had the effect of squeezing out more partisan political news.

“This may be a temporary effect, but in almost all countries we see audiences placing a greater premium on accurate and reliable news sources.”

Meanwhile, the report documents how badly print publications have been affected by Covid-19, due to restrictions on movement affecting sales and the associated hit to advertising revenue.

Across 20 countries where publishers have been actively pushing digital subscriptions, researchers found 17 per cent saying that they have paid for some kind of online news in the last year via subscription, donation, or one-off payment.

This is up by two points in the last year and up five since 2016.

Around a fifth (21 per cent) now pay for at least one online news outlet in the United States, 20 per cent in Finland, and 13 per cent in Australia.

But paying for news in the UK is very much a minority activity, with just 8 per cent of respondents saying they currently pay for any online news.

Overall, the report found that while many remain very engaged, researchers found signs that others are turning away from the news media and in some cases avoiding news altogether.

Interest in news has fallen sharply in the United States following the election of Joe Biden as president – especially with right-leaning groups.

Despite more options to read and watch partisan news, around three quarters of respondents (74 per cent) said they still prefer news that reflects a range of views and lets them decide what to think.

Additional reporting by PA