Digital News Report 2017: Only a Third of Hungarians Trust the News
The sixth Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford reveals high levels of dissatisfaction with the quality of news and comment generally, and on social media in particular. The contributors to the report include Eva Bognar, senior program officer and researcher at the Center for Media, Data and Society at the School of Public Policy, who wrote about Hungary’s media landscape.
The report, which is based on a YouGov online survey conducted with 70,000 people in 36 countries, notes that over half of respondents (54%) use social media as a source of news but highlights a decline in the use of Facebook for news in some countries as messaging apps grow in popularity.
Trust in the news and the role of social media
Only a quarter (24%) of survey respondents think social media does a good job in separating fact from fiction, compared to 40% for the news media. In countries like the US (20%/38%), and the UK (18%/41%), people are twice as likely to have faith in the news media. Only in Greece do more people think social media is doing a better job, primarily because they have very low confidence in news media (28%/19%)
More widely, trust in the media varies significantly across our 36 countries. The proportion that says they trust the news is highest in Finland (62%), but lowest in Greece and South Korea (23%). Trust has fallen seven percentage points in the UK since the Brexit referendum.
In some countries, the report finds a strong link between low trust and perceived political bias. In the United States those on the political right are almost three times as likely to express distrust in the news in general compared with those on the left. Political polarisation in the US, means that respondents are more likely to trust news sources they use (53%) than the news in general (38%).
In Hungary, there is significant difference between the level of trust in the news in general and in the news respondents consume (31% versus 54%), which indicates a highly polarised environment. Only 11% of respondents think the media in Hungary are free from undue political influence, which is the second lowest figure among the 36 countries included in this study.
Social media are an extremely popular source of news in Hungary, partly due to the lack of trust in traditional media sources and partly as a result of a longstanding preference for informal personal networks. Some researchers attribute this characteristic of the Hungarian society to the legacy of the socialist past. Formal institutions are considered untrustworthy by many. Low levels of trust may by driven by concerns over government control of the media and the extent of misinformation carried. But these also reflect and are exacerbated by political polarisation.
Hungarian respondents are fairly divided when it comes to what media they consume. Interestingly, two major online news portals, Origo and Index are among the least divisive media in terms of their reach to both sides of the political spectrum. Television channels (including the public service broadcaster) are mostly highly divisive.
Almost a third of our sample (29%) say they often or sometimes avoid the news. Of these almost half (44%) say this is because the news has a negative effect on their mood and a third (33%) say they can’t rely on the news to be true.
Business models continue to evolve
This year’s report contains mixed news for publishers looking to build sustainable online revenue. There has been a remarkable surge in the numbers prepared to pay for online news in the United States, growing from 9% to 16% of our online sample along with a tripling of news donations. Most of the new subscriptions and other payments have come from those on the political left with almost a third saying they want to ‘help fund journalism’. Significant growth has come from the under-35s, a powerful corrective to the idea that younger groups are not prepared to pay for online media let alone news. The report shows a strong correlation between those paying for online video services like Netflix or music services like Spotify –and paying for online news. Once people have moved away from the idea that all digital content and services are free, they are much more likely to also pay for news.
Other key data points from this year’s Digital News Report
- More than half of all online users across the 36 countries (54%) now say they use social media as a source of news each week but this ranges from 76% in Chile to 29% in Japan and Germany. More than one in ten (14%) now say social media is their main source
- Voice-activated speakers (e.g. Alexa) have already outstripped smartwatches in the United States as a way of accessing news; 4% of respondents use these devices, half for news
- Austrians and Swiss are most wedded to printed newspapers; Germans and Italians love TV bulletins, while Latin Americans get more news via social media and chat apps
MORE INFORMATION ON THE 2017 REPORT
The research and report can also be found on a dedicated website with slidepacks, charts, and raw data tables, with a licence that encourages reuse. A description of the methodology is available with the complete questionnaire.
This is the sixth in an annual series of reports that will track the transition of the news industry towards an increasingly digital and multi-platform future.
Sponsors of this year’s report include Google, BBC News, Ofcom, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), the Media Industry Research Foundation of Finland, the Fritt Ord Foundation in Norway, the Korea Press Foundation, Edelman UK, as well as our academic sponsors at the Hans Bredow Institute, Hamburg University, the University of Navarra, the University of Canberra and Le Centre d’études sur les médias, Université Laval in Canada and Roskilde University in Denmark. Sole responsibility for the analysis, interpretation and conclusions drawn lies with the authors and editors of the Report