US mistrust on the rise, with government seen as worst: poll

A new survey of US adults shows low levels of trust in government, at least in part due to President Donald Trump's numerous falsehoods (AFP Photo/JIM WATSON )

Washington (AFP) - Americans distrust the news media, but see government and political leaders as even more untrustworthy, a survey showed Monday.

The Pew Research Center found 69 percent of Americans say the federal government intentionally withholds important information from the public, while 61 percent say the news media intentionally ignores important stories.

Nearly two-thirds say it is hard to tell the difference between what is true and false when they hear elected officials, and almost half said the same about information they encounter on social media.

The survey highlighting growing mistrust among Americans in institutions and in each other, which could make it more difficult to deal with social and political issues.

Researchers found 64 percent of US adults believe trust in each other has declined, and 58 percent say it is very important to reverse that.

"Americans are worried that distrust in the government and in others is taking a toll on the nation," said Lee Rainie, head of Pew's internet and technology research.

"They believe that distrust gets in the way of solving some pressing problems, that it flows from a broken political culture and that it keeps neighbors apart.

"At the same time, people are full of ideas about solutions to trust problems. They range from muffling political partisanship to reorienting the news to creating community projects where people can work shoulder-to-shoulder."

Pew said at least part of reason for the lack of trust in government lies with President Donald Trump, who has repeated at least 10,000 falsehoods since taking office, according to one count, and who has repeatedly attacked mainstream media reports about him as "fake news."

Asked why the level of trust in government has declined, 14 percent cited Trump and his administration, while 10 percent noted the performance of the news media.

The respondents said they believe the mistrust can be reversed: 84 percent believe the level of confidence Americans have in the federal government can be improved, and 86 percent said the same about the confidence Americans have in each other.

The report was extracted from Pew's American Trends Panel conducted November 27 to December 10, 2018 of 10,618 adults, with an estimated margin of error of 1.5 percentage points.