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RAND: White People Believe News Less Reliable Now than in Past

The RAND Corporation has released a new survey you can read in pdf form here.

The Summary:

In this report, we explore how U.S. media consumers obtain news. We examine the types of dissemination platforms (different forms of media delivery; e.g., online, television, print) that consumers rely on and the relationship between consumers’ news consumption profiles (the specific mix of news platforms consumed; e.g., print and broadcast television, radio, social media) and their overall perceptions of media reliability and the reliability of specific news platforms. We also explore the extent to which people use platforms that they have identified as reliable and their willingness to seek out news from viewpoints that are different from their own, in light of interest in and concern about echo chambers or filter bubbles. Finally, we consider the extent to which demographic characteristics and political partisanship are linked to each of these aspects of news consumption. Using a nationally representative survey of English-speaking individuals 21 and older, we address several questions:

• How do Americans get their news?

• How are news consumption choices linked to demographic or political characteristics?

• Do news consumers believe the reliability of news has changed, and which news platforms do they believe to be more or less reliable?

• How is the perceived reliability of news associated with news consumption choices?

In pursuing these questions, we aim to advance the discussion about the relationships among media consumption, trust in media, and Truth Decay—the diminishing reliance on facts, data, and analysis in American public life.

“Truth Decay”?

The RAND website has a section wherein a definition of this new term is provided:

Defining “Truth Decay”

RAND defines Truth Decay as the diminishing role of facts and data in American public life. There are four trends that characterize Truth Decay:

1. increasing disagreement about facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data

2. a blurring of the line between opinion and fact

3. the increasing relative volume and resulting influence of opinion and personal experience over fact

4. declining trust in formerly respected sources of facts.

Some important findings from the study related to race and demographics have been excerpted below:

Non-Hispanic white respondents were generally more likely than others to report relying heavily on the social media/ in-person and online platforms for obtaining their news.


Without attention to partisanship (Model 1 in Table 3.4), respondents who were white, male, or retired or who had higher incomes or less than a college education were significantly more likely to believe the news is less reliable now (compared with as reliable as in the past). Conversely, women, racial or ethnic minorities, and those without college degrees were significantly more likely to say they believed that the news is more reliable now than in the past.


Black respondents are more likely than white respondents to “always or almost always” or “never or almost never” seek out differing views. Those who are not white, black, or Hispanic are more likely than white respondents to “never or almost never” seek out differing views.

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