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Trust in the media is down, and this chart does not help

RollCall – “Good data is only part of the challenge; using it correctly is important too. I’m under no illusion that trust in the media is waning, but a recent chart on the topic was one of the most ridiculous visuals I’ve seen in a long time. Trashing the media is obligatory for conservatives, Republicans and former President Donald Trump, and there’s evidence that distrust in journalism is becoming a bipartisan affair. I’m just skeptical that the drop is as precipitous as it appeared in a chart published by Axios last week.  With the ongoing discussion about the challenges of polling and usefulness of public opinion research, this is a reminder that having good data is only part of the challenge. Using it and analyzing it correctly is important too. The chart, titled “Percentage of Americans who trust traditional media (2012 to 2021),” showed a couple of peaks and valleys, a dramatic rise in 2019 followed by an even larger drop in 2021, to where the data point nearly falls completely off the chart. According to Edelman’s U.S. Country Report, the source Axios used to populate the chart, trust in the traditional media dipped to 46 percent this year, which is down from 59 percent in 2019. My problems with the chart are that the graphic makes it look like trust in the media has nearly fallen to zero, as it almost reaches the bottom of the chart. In reality, the bottom of the y-axis is 45 percent, and the entire y-axis spans just 15 points (from 45 percent to 60 percent). That exaggerates the drop.  If the y-axis were a typical 0-100 percent, the movement would appear much less dramatic…”

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