The effects of news and entertainment on interpersonal trust: Political talkradio, newspapers, and television
Lee, G., Cappella, J. N., & Southwell, B. (2003). The effects of news and entertainment on interpersonal trust: Political talkradio, newspapers, and television. Mass Communication and Society, 6(4), 413-434. DOI: 10.1207/S15327825MCS0604_5
In a now-famous article, Robert Putnam traced changes in interpersonal (IP) trust, civic engagement, and political trust in the United States during the past 3 decades. Although trust in government has declined, so have IP trust and civic engagement. Putnam places the blame for the loss of the various components of so-called civic or social capital squarely on television as a medium. We analyze 4 data sets to explain IP trust. Education, newspaper readership, and age are consistent and strong associates of trusting attitudes and behaviors. Reported political talk radio listening and elite electronic news use also are linked to trust. Those high in social trust, however, are not consistently heavier or lighter consumers of television. Putnam's hypothesis, in other words, is not confirmed in these data. Implications, as well as some reasons to continue to entertain the hypothesis, are explored.