President Trump not only considers wide swaths of the US news media “enemies of the people”.
He is now also asserting without evidence that social media companies like Facebook and Twitter “silence conservative voices” and has alleged that Google search results are “rigged” and are “suppressing” Republicans and conservatives.
Trump’s attacks included some demonstrable false claims, as for example BuzzFeed News has demonstrated, including the idea that Google promoted president Obama’s State of the Union on its homepage but stopped promoting these speeches when Trump took office.
As Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a trade association that represents online news publishers and a frequent critic of platform companies wrote after Trump’s attacks on Google, “He’s 100% wrong. He’s spreading complete BS. If he was even remotely correct, I would be the first to call it out. I have a lot of issues with Google, this isn’t one of them.”
But will his attacks resonate with conservative voters? Our Reuters Institute Digital News Report survey data suggests it might.
Not only are partisan voters likely to take cues from politicians they support. In this case, the President’s attacks also plays into widespread distrust not only of news media, but also news found via social media and search engines. (Our survey was in the field in January/February so well before Trump started publicly attacking the platform companies.)
People on the political right in the US not only have far less trust in the news media than the rest of the population.
They also trust news in social and search far less than people in the center or on the political left, as shown in the chart below.
17 percent of those on the political right say they trust most news, compared to 16 percent who say they trust news in search engines and just 8 percent who say they trust news in social media. (The latter perhaps complicating the narrative that Conservatives favor social media.)
Google has denied using political viewpoints to shape its search results, and said “Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.” (Facebook and Twitter have not responded directly.)
But Trump’s core supporters may not believe it, or any of the other platform companies the President is now attacking. As news media have long known, it is one issue how you can try to avoid political bias. It is another whether some people think you are politically biased.
Thanks to Antonis Kalogeropoulos who helped with the chart.