NEW YORK (Reuters) - Americans are increasingly confident in the news media and less so in President Donald Trump’s administration after a tumultuous year in U.S. politics that tested the public’s trust in both institutions, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.
The poll of more than 14,300 people found that the percentage of adults who said they had a “great deal” or “some” confidence in the press rose to 48 percent in September from 39 percent last November. Earlier this year, Trump branded the entire industry as the “enemy of the American people.”
The percentage of those who said they had “hardly any” confidence in the press dropped to 45 percent from 51 percent over the same period.
Confidence in Trump’s administration moved in the opposite direction.
In comparison, 57 percent of Americans expressed similar levels of confidence in former Democratic President Barack Obama’s outgoing administration in November.
The poll also found that the shift in trust was not simply a partisan reaction to a Republican president.
From January to September, the percentage of people who had a “great deal” or “some” confidence in the executive branch dropped 6 percentage points among Republicans and 3 points among Democrats.
The percentage of those who expressed similar levels of confidence in the media rose 3 points this year among Republicans and 11 points among Democrats.
Every president clashes with the news media, but Trump “has gone a step further in attacking the press and questioning their legitimacy,” said Martha Kumar, a presidential historian who has worked with White House transition teams for Obama and 2008 Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain.
“What you’re seeing now is a gradual recognition of the importance of the press” at a time when people are still getting used to a new president whose campaign is under federal investigation for alleged collusion with Russia, Kumar said. Trump has denied any collusion occurred.
Kumar added that confidence in the press may be rising this year because news organizations have offered wildly different perspectives on Trump, satisfying people who like him as well as those who do not.
“They’re not all watching and reading the same things,” she said. “They’re gravitating toward organizations they trust.”
Ari Fleischer, former Republican President George W. Bush’s first press secretary, said any shift in the way people viewed the press and the president was likely the product of an oppositional relationship that both sides had pushed since the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Trump throws fastballs directly at the press’ head. He does it almost every day,” Fleischer said.
“This makes those who oppose Trump draw into the press,” elevating its stature among those who would otherwise not trust the media, he said.