Less than half the New Zealand public now professes ‘overall trust’ in news media outlets, despite big rises in audience numbers during the Covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis.

The 2021 Trust in News in New Zealand survey released early on Thursday found the level of overall trust falling from 53 percent in 2020 to 48 percent in 2021 and trust in the news sources used by respondents themselves falling by 7 points from 62 percent to 55 percent.

The drops in NZ mirrored international research findings in the Reuters Digital News Report 2020, which put trust in media at the lowest level since it began seeking such data in 2016. But our overall trust figure at 48 percent remains high compared to the international average of 38 percent.

The local survey of 1200 people, run online nationwide by Horizon Research in March on behalf of AUT’s research centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy found all news brands here experienced erosion in trust over the 12 months, with Newshub and Newstalk ZB suffering ‘statistically significant’ falls.

Respondents were asked to rate 11 media brands out of 10 for trustworthiness (with 10 being completely trustworthy). Average scores out of 10 were calculated from those who knew of each source.

“In general, trust in the news has declined because the news media is seen as increasingly opinionated, biased, and politicised,” says JMAD co-director Merja Myllylahti.

The survey shows New Zealanders want factual information and not opinion dressed up as news, the researchers say.

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It would have been interesting if respondents had been asked who they supported at the last general election. It’s a fair assumption that those who voted Labour-Greens are less critical than those who voted for other parties. —Eds