How the public understands news media trust: An open-ended approach
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonJournalism, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/14648849211005892
Despite the central role that ordinary citizens play as ‘trustors’ (i.e. the actor that places trust) in the literature on news media trust, prior quantitative studies have paid little attention to how ordinary citizens understand and define news media trust. Here, trust tends to be studied from a researcher-defined – rather than an audience-defined – perspective. To address this gap, we investigate how the public describes news media trust in their own words by asking them directly. We analyse 1500 written responses collected through a Norwegian online probability-based survey, here using a semisupervised quantitative text analysis technique called structural topic modelling (STM). We find that citizens’ own understanding of news media trust can be categorised into four distinct topics that, in some instances, are comparable to academic and professional discourse. We show that citizens’ written descriptions of news media trust vary by many of the same variables that prior research has found to be important predictors of levels of trust. Respondents’ written descriptions of news media trust vary by education and satisfaction with democracy but not other known predictors of trust, such as ideological self-placement and political preferences.