A Little Healthy Competition: The Effects of Press-Government Competition on Institutional Trust
Barthel, Michael Lewis
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This dissertation examined the relationship between the press and the government, and what effect competition between the two institutions has on trust in government and the news media. To do so, it combined a content analysis of attacks in press coverage of politics and journalism from 1982 to 2010 with public opinion data from the same period. It found that trust in government and trust in the press are related over time, and a major turning point for these attitudes was 1991. The content analysis found that attacks on the news media were more likely to be found in articles about journalism rather than about politics, indicating that press criticism comes less often from politicians than it does from the press itself, and that most attacks were on the press as an institution rather than individual reporters or publications. When the two data sources were combined, analyses found a set of advantages and disadvantages for each actor strongly related to normative expectations for the press, Congress, and White House. Results and implications for studies of institutional trust and the press are discussed.
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