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A matter of trust: how Americans and Australians diverged in trust and media use during a global pandemic
conference contributionposted on 2021-03-22, 04:23 authored by Andrea CarsonAndrea Carson, Shaun Ratcliff, Leah Ruppanner
Recent surveys show media trust is low in Australia and the United States. Less clear is how much media trust matters for citizens’ uses of different types of media and under what conditions (Strömbäck et al., 2020). This article focuses on trust in journalists and other information sources – medical experts and friends and family on social media – during a time of crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic. Using survey data, we measure citizens’ trust in COVID-19 information sources and the implications of media use and partisanship during the health crisis. We find stark differences in media use and trust in journalists between the US and Australia. The US has partisan patterns of media consumption serving different public spheres. Most Republican voters do not trust professional journalists and were less likely to trust medical experts. While, Democrats are more trusting of professional journalists, health experts and turn to mainstream media for COVID-19 information. Republicans, who tended to rely on conservative media for news, were the least concerned about catching coronavirus and most likely to believe restrictions on movement and gatherings had gone too far. In contrast, most Australians, regardless of partisanship, express higher levels of trust in professional journalists and medical experts for COVID-19 information. Differences in media use, trust and partisanship between the two democracies reflect patently different attitudes to government lockdowns. We conclude low trust in professional journalists and medical experts matters; without it, government agency to manage the health crisis is undermined.