Honors College Thesis


An Analysis of Americans’ Trust in the News Media Public Deposited

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  • With trust in the media reaching an all-time low among Americans, I wanted to explore what prompted this shift in attitude. This thesis analyzes how Americans’ perspectives on the credibility of modern-day media and the value they place on the freedom of the press are heavily influenced by their preferred leader. I hypothesize that the 2016 election of President-Elect Donald Trump and his successive rhetoric galvanized a large portion of Americans to doubt the news media in addition to increasing partisan division and animosity. My hypothesis is a secondary analysis based on existing data presented in a variety of academic sources that I synthesize to reach my conclusion. The structure of this essay is intended to present fluctuations in trust in the media, focusing on the ten-year time span from 2008 to 2018. This ten-year time span includes the election and presidency of Barack Obama in addition to the election and beginning of the presidency of Donald Trump. Fundamentally, the analysis reveals how elite polarization can ultimately lead to affective polarization. Affective polarization is a phenomenon wherein the animosity between political parties leads to high levels of hostility. This data will have important consequences for figuring out how the power of the media affects countries differently and how it has changed throughout history. Furthermore, understanding the public's view of the media is vital in looking towards the future of politics because the media has immense power within democracy but a lack of trust could signal that this power is diminishing.
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