European study: Large divergence in media trust

NEWS | 4 June 2018

Most Europeans consider the news media to be important to society, but the level of media trust differs by both country and populist leaning. A new study from the Pew Research Center reveals the news habits in eight European countries, including Denmark and Sweden.

The Pew Research Center, an American fact tank, has studied public attitudes toward the news media, main sources of news, trust in media outlets, and use of social media for news, as well as divides in media trust according to populist leanings and left-right political positions.

The countries included are Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, the UK, and Sweden.

Across all countries, broad majorities regard the news media as important to the functioning of society. In Sweden, almost all people (95 per cent) consider the media to be important. Six of ten Swedes even say they are very important, compared to four of ten Danes.

Graph Trust in the news media

As for media trust, there is more divergence. The highest media trust is found in the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden, where around two-thirds of the population trust the news media, compared to almost half the population in Denmark. The lowest dip for media trust is found in Spain and Italy.

The Nordic news outlets get high ratings on their core functions. In Sweden, 85 per cent say their news media do a good job of covering the important stories of the day (placing Sweden at the top of the list), compared to 76 per cent in Denmark (fifth place).

Around 70 per cent of both Swedes and Danes give the news media good marks for investigating the actions of the government (first and third places, respectively). And for getting the facts right and being editorially independent and politically neutral in their coverage, the Swedish and Danish media also rank high (second and third places, respectively).

Those who hold populist[1] views value and trust the news media less (compared to less divergence between people on the left-right scale). This is true across all countries, with the largest gap in Sweden, where 74 per cent of non-populists compared to 49 per cent of people with populist leanings say they trust the news media.

In Denmark, the corresponding ratio is 56 per cent among non-populists and 34 per cent among populists having confidence in the news media. However, it is only in the Netherlands that the proportion of populists trusting the news media (62 per cent) is larger than in Sweden.

The share getting daily news via social media is highest in Italy (50 per cent), followed closely by Denmark and Sweden. More younger than older people use social platforms for news, the list being topped by Denmark where three quarters of 18-29-year-olds receive news via social media. Facebook is the platform that is used most often.

Graph News via social media

Both Danes and Swedes seem to be conscious consumers of news through social media, as a majority say they are familiar with the sources of news they encounter on social platforms. Still, a fifth (21 per cent in Denmark, 16 per cent in Sweden) say they do not pay attention to the sources, while this figure is less than a third in France, the Netherlands, and Italy.


Download the full report in PDF format

Read the report online

Fact Sheet Denmark: News Media and Political Attitudes in Denmark

Fact Sheet Sweden: News Media and Political Attitudes in Sweden


[1] A person's views were defined as populist if they replied that "Most elected officials don’t care what people like me think" and "Ordinary people would do a better job solving the country’s problems than elected officials."

The survey was conducted from Oct. 30 to Dec. 20, 2017 through telephone interviews with around 2,000 people (age 18+) per country. Read more about the methodology and the national surveys here.
The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank which, among other activities, publishes the annual State of the News Media reports presenting data and trends involving key sectors in the US news media industry. Read more about the Center.