Lack of “Trump Tension” knocks down TV viewership rates—but is media trust improving?

by | Aug 12, 2021 | Public Relations

The news-cycle rollercoaster and news-consumption patterns continue to warp among consumers—and baffle communicators. While recent TV news has covered the COVID pandemic, the Delta variant, ongoing Democrat vs. Republican political tug-of-wars, the January 6th Insurrection Select Committee, the Infrastructure negotiations, the Olympics, and flights into space, viewer interest in TV news has literally slowed, reveals new research from brand loyalty and emotional engagement research consultancy Brand Keys.

“We believe as people returned to a semblance of pre-COVID normalcy, viewers quite literally ‘tuned out’ the news,” said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president, in a news release.

The 9th wave of the firm’s Media Trust Tracking survey, conducted for MediaPost, was fielded in August. The survey identifies the contribution the single value of “trust” makes to program engagement and positive viewership behavior toward TV news brands.

Using the independently-validated Brand Keys emotional engagement analysis, 3,975 wave-9 respondents (balanced for gender and political affiliation and drawn from the nine U.S. Census Regions) rated the TV news brands they watch regularly, 3+ times a week.

Brand Keys also believes the decline in TV new viewership has been abetted by a distinct lack of what they call “Trump tension”

This is an allusion to Trump’s near-daily monopolization of media platforms, particularly television news, during the Trump presidency. Because engagement assessments correlate very highly with viewer behavior (0.80+), dips in “trust” have seen concomitant dips in viewership.

In this wave of research, eight of the nine TV news brands examined showed trust levels declined, with one exception—FOX News.

Lack of “Trump Tension” knocks down TV viewership rates—but is media trust improving?

“Trust” relates to a number of factors when it comes to TV news

Foremost among them is a fair presentation of important content, with accuracy, clarity, and timeliness contributing to viewer trust evaluations.

Brand Keys has continued to track Presidential trust levels. President Biden’s trust-contribution was 57 percent, a decrease of 4 percent since the last wave of research conducted in February.

The researchers used an independently-validated research methodology fusing emotional and rational aspects of categories. This identifies category behavioral drivers as well as the values (including “trust” as it is characterized in a particular category) that form the components of each driver, along with their percent-contribution to engagement, and positive behavior, and loyalty toward a brand.

Brand Keys’ research technique, is a combination of psychological inquiry and higher-order statistical analyses, has a test/re-test reliability of 0.93, and produces results generalizable at the 95 percent confidence level. It has been successfully used in B2B, B2C, and D2C categories—including media and politics—in 35 countries.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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