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The volatile relationship between the Administration and the news media, combined with the prevalence of fake news and misleading content online, is causing Americans to feel more confused about who and what to believe than ever before.

Trust in institutions at historic low: A 2016 Gallup poll ranks the least-trusted U.S. institutions. Not surprisingly, television, newspapers, big business and Congress all rank at the bottom of the list with less than 10% of Americans having a great deal of confidence in those institutions.

Data: Gallup; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Lack of trust in media is particularly prevalent among Republicans, with 86% of conservatives saying they no longer trust the media, which Gallup says is easily the lowest confidence level among Republicans in 20 years.

  • Our consumption habits fuel the problem: Today, 62% of Americans say they get their news from social media, and primarily from Facebook, even though an American Press Institute study finds people are least likely to trust Facebook "a great deal" compared to all other social platforms. Facebook has become such a dominant part of news discovery and distribution that 10% of respondents for a Pew survey last month said they believed Facebook was the news source of articles they read on Facebook, not the news outlets themselves. The same problem exists on Twitter. A Columbia University study found that Americans share 60% of news on Twitter without reading the articles linked to, which is problematic considering that a recent study by Oxford Internet Institute (OII) found that nearly half of political news content that's tweeted is fake. Moreover, nearly a quarter of Americans admit to sharing fake news on Facebook, and more than half of those people say they do so knowingly.

Political institutions make it hard to be trusted: Earlier this month, a conservative group backing a Virginia gubernatorial candidate altered the headline of a local newspaper to misrepresent the truth about an opposing candidate's position, causing the post to go viral. An indictment of former Congressman Steve Stockman, R-Texas, revealed that a major conservative political donor wrote a check for over $450,000 to to support mailing a fake newspaper to voters, in an effort to spread fake news about the candidate's primary opponent, Sen. John Cornyn. The left is no better. Elon University media professor and researcher John Albright found that the left-leaning media watchdog group Media Matters continuously linked to fake news sources when writing oppositional stories about the right. Media Matters says it has recently adopted a "no follow" practice to ensure readers that when they have linked to fake news or extremist sites in the past, it has been to expose and debunk them, not to promote them. President Trump and his Administration have several times stated false information as facts, and have tried to discredit some of the largest news outlets as being "fake news," for reporting information that doesn't sit well with the Administration. Case in point:

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Why it matters: Declining trust in the media, politics and institutions are causing Americans to seek information from unconventional sources. A recent YouGov marketing research firm survey found that Americans' trust in ads is higher than trust in news. A Digital Content Next study found that nearly 75% of consumers access more information now that their favorite brands are on social media. Above all, Americans trust each other. The American Press Institute found that people are most likely to share a news article that comes from a family member or friend than a brand or news outlet.

This piece has been updated to include comment from Media Matters.

Go deeper

Mitt Romney calls Ray Dalio's China investments a "sad moral lapse"

Sen. Mitt Romney walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Oct. 7. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday criticized billionaire Ray Dalio's investments in China, writing in a tweet that "his feigned ignorance of China's horrific abuses and rationalization of complicit investments there is a sad moral lapse."

Driving the news: Romney's comments come after Dalio's firm, Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, raised $1.3 billion in November for a new private fund in China, Bloomberg reports.

Updated 52 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. faces urgent anti-hacker crisis

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Biden administration is accelerating efforts to fill nearly 600,000 vacant cybersecurity positions in the public and private sectors bogging down efforts to protect digital infrastructure.

Why it matters: Following a deluge of ransomware attacks targeting critical government and corporate infrastructure this year, clogs in the talent pipeline are leaving federal, cash-strapped local governments and Big Business even more susceptible to hacking.