A recent study has revealed that the Indian media, along with the police, were the least trusted institutions in the country - only 25% of the respondents were found to trust them completely.
In contrast, the respondent's views on the national government were highly varied - while 37% respondents said they trust the national government completely, 8% of the respondents said they do not trust the government at all, marking the highest level of mistrust towards an institution. In comparison, only 4% of the respondents said they did not trust the media at all.
The study, titled "Overcoming indifference: what attitudes towards news tell us about building trust", was conducted by Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford in four different countries - India, Brazil, United Kingdom and United States.
In India, the survey was conducted between 7 May – 2 June 2021 with a sample size of 2015. The participants took the survey online in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Bangla or Kannada. Telephone and WhatsApp were also used to reach those in smaller towns.
The study also revealed that the military and scientists were the most trusted institutions in India, with 72% and 62% placing their complete trust on them, respectively.
Levels Of Trust On News Brands And Platforms
The study found Doordarshan News to be the most trusted news brand in India - 46% of the respondents said they trust the channel completely.
Times of India and All India Radio followed closely, with 42% and 38% of the respondents respectively stating that they trust these brands completely.
Out of TV channels, Republic TV had some of the lowest levels of trust, along with highest levels of mistrust. While only 22% said they trust the channel completely, nearly 14% stated that they do not trust it at all. Another 19% stated that they do not trust the channel very much.
One of the researchers, Sumitra Badrinathan, also noted that the study revealed Republic TV to be one of the most polarising brands – while only 50% of all respondents showed some level of trust towards the channel, the number rose to 72% among supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Out of online platforms, Google was found to be the most trusted, with 49% saying they trust the platform completely.
YouTube and Twitter also had comparatively high levels of trust – with 27% and 28% saying they trust completely, respectively.
While 12% of the respondents said they do not trust WhatsApp at all, a surprising 20% of the respondents stated that they trust the messaging app completely.
Evaluating News Reliability
As compared to Brazil, UK and US, Indian respondents showed a significantly higher reliance on heuristics (shortcut mental strategies) to evaluate news.
Nearly 61% of overall respondents said they rely on friends and family to determine which news channels they can trust. The number was at 48% for the section of respondents who were found to be generally untrusting.
Other countries scored much lower, with less than 28% respondents relying on such heuristics to evaluate news.
In contrast, Indian respondents also showed the highest propensity to rely on numbers, graphs or statistics to base their trust in the news.
Views On Journalists And Their Processes
As compared to UK and US, a significantly higher share of respondents in India and Brazil wanted more transparency about journalists' political leanings and affiliations (61% and 63%, respectively).
Compared to the others, their curiosity towards the gender, religion and race/caste was also higher in India and Brazil.
Furthermore, in nearly every country surveyed, a considerable minority held quite negative news on how journalists do their jobs.
In India, 41% said that journalists try to manipulate the public, while 38% said that journalists intentionally provoke in order to get attention for themselves.
The Untrusting Indians: Who Are They
Finally, the study also drew a profile of the respondents who were found to be generally untrusting of the institutions.
In India, older, non-Hindu and non-Upper/General caste men were found to be more likely to show mistrust towards institutions
They also tend to not have college degrees, are more often unemployed, retired or self-employed, and less likely to be private sector workers. They are also more likely to come from lower income households.
On political views, such respondents were found to be less likely to be affiliated to the BJP, and they tended to evaluate Prime Minister Narendra Modi unfavourably.
They were also more likely to be outside the 'Northern region' and overrepresented in smaller towns.
You can read the full report here.