COVID 19 Poll: Big decline in trust in social media

Team CVoter conducted a series of surveys to find out the level of trust Indians placed in all media sources, including news channels, newspapers and social media. In 2020, as compared to 2018, the trust Indians place in social media has declined the most, followed by newspapers and TV news channels. Team Polstrat breaks down this change in trust in various media sources across demographics in India.

Which is the most trustworthy: newspapers, tv news channels or social media?

The C-Voter survey carried out between 23–30th April 2020 revealed that Indians deemed TV news channels to be the most trustworthy (42.3%), followed by newspapers (34.5%) and social media (12.5%). Respondents reported the highest decline in trust social media (8.4%) followed by newspapers (7.3%) and TV news channels (1.7%) as compared to data from 2018.

Out of all the 18 institutions asked about in the survey, the ranks of newspapers and tv news channels has fallen while the rank of social media has increased. Newspapers fell in rank from 7 in 2018 to 13 in 2020, tv news channels fell from 4 in 2018 to 11 in 2020, while social media increased from 17 in 2018 to 16 in 2020.

TV news channels: lowest decline in trust

As compared to 2018, TV news channels have recorded the least fall in trust amongst respondents (1.7%). This comes at a time when the entire 1.2 billion population of the nation is staying indoors due to the nation-wide lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus. India’s total television consumption in the first week of the lockdown had increased by 6%, with average daily viewers growing to around 62 million.

When comparing this decline across demographics, we observe that the most significant decline (17%) has been in the trust females have in TV news channels from 5.4% in 2018 to 40.3% in 2020. While those with low income registered a 6.5% decline in trust in TV news channels, those with medium and high income registered a roughly 8% increase in trust. The trust low-income earners have in tv news channels fell from 49.5% in 2018 to 43% in 2020, while for medium and high-income earners it grew to 41.2% and 42.5% respectively.

Additionally, the patterns of trust in tv news channels remain similar across social groups with Scheduled Caste (SC) (47.5%) and Upper Caste Hindus (46.1%) registering the highest level of trust in tv news.

Breakdown of decline in trust in newspapers

The second-largest decline in trust amongst respondents was reported in newspapers. The trust in newspapers has declined across age-groups to around 32% in 2020, except for those in the 60+ age group who have registered almost the same level of trust. (44.4%). Across income and education groups, those with low income registered a 10.65% decline and those with low education registered a 0.4% decline in trust in newspapers.

Additionally, when comparing decline across social groups, Muslims recorded the highest decline in trust in newspapers by 16.7%. This was followed by Others (14.3%) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) 12%. On the other hand, Scheduled Tribes (ST) recorded a 6.2% increase in trust in newspapers.

Trust in social media has declined the most

Respondents reported the largest decline in trust in social media such as Facebook, Twitter from 20.9% in 2018 to 12.5% in 2020. It is important to note that during this time period, the number of social media users in the country has actually increased from around 326 million (2018) to 350 million (beginning of 2020). This decline has been common across demographics such as gender, income, education.

Both males and females registered declined trust in social media. Males reported a 7.7% decline, while females reported an 18% decline in trust in social media. Additionally, we also observe that across income groups and education groups, there was a decline in trust in social media, with the highest decline in groups with low income and high education. Those with low income reported an 8.7% decline in trust, while those with higher education reported an 11% decline in trust.

This decline in trust in social media across India could be due to the widespread problem of fake news and misinformation in the country. This has been a rampant problem in India, especially during the 2019 General Elections, 2019 anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests as well as during the ongoing Coronavirus crisis. In several instances, the spreading of misinformation through social media platforms has led to cases of mob lynching or mob violence leading to the death of at least 25 people in 2018.

Both the government and social media and tech companies have scaled up attempts to combat the spread of misinformation on these platforms, including the setting up of fact-checking websites, government classes on fake news and the issuing of public advisories on the same.

Even during the ongoing global pandemic, there has been a rampant spread of misinformation in India about the Coronavirus, including methods to cure the diseases, information igniting communal hate and setting up of fake government accounts for donations.

It is important for all citizens to be vigilant of such receiving and spreading such information and only consider official and trusted sources such as the World Health Organization and government advisories for the same.

Read the infographic here in Hindi and English.

-Shreya Maskara/New Delhi

From Polstrat, a non-partisan political consultancy which aims to shift the narrative of political discourse in the country from a problem-centric to a solutions-oriented approach. All survey findings and projections are based on the Team CVoter “Trust in Institutions” survey carried out in 2010, 2018 and 2020 among 18+ adults statewide, including every major demographic (Sample Size: 2018 :2709 & 2020: 1347. Total: 4056). Team CVoter (Center For Voting Opinions and Trends in Election Research) is a leading international stakeholder research organization with its roots in India.

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Polstrat is a political consultancy aiming to shift the narrative of political discourse in the country from a problem-centric to a solutions-oriented approach.