UNF poll: Jacksonville voters trust local news over national, rely most on News4Jax

Fille photo shows media organizations set up outside the White House in Washington. (Evan Vucci, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A collaboration poll done by the University of North Florida and The Tributary finds that registered Jacksonville voters have greater trust in local news compared to national news and rely on News4Jax most often.

According to the results of the poll conducted by UNF’s Public Opinion Research Lab, when asked how much they trust the information from national news organizations, 60% said they trust them either “a lot” or “some,” while 40% responded with “not too much” or “not at all.”

When it comes to local news organizations, 75% of respondents reported to trust them either “some” or “a lot,” while 24% said they didn’t trust the information provided.

Notably, the poll found a partisan gap in both local and national news outlets. Democrats were nearly 30 percentage points more trusting than Republicans of the information from local news organizations. The divide was higher in national news -- with Democrats 55% higher than Republicans.

When asked which local news outlets respondents rely upon most often, News4Jax had the highest response with 37%.

“Jacksonville has a variety of local news options, and our residents are diverse in their consumption habits,” Dr. Michael Binder, with UNF’s Public Opinion Research Lab, said in a prepared statement. “The more local news options the better. Whether it’s television in the early morning, radio on the way home from work or news alerts on our phones throughout the day – the more access we have to local information, the better suited we are to navigate society.”

When asked about the financial states of local news outlets, 67% said they believe local outlets are doing either “very well” or “somewhat well.” And when asked if they had paid or given money to a local news organization in the past year, 81% said they had not.

When asked why they hadn’t contributed, the most common response -- which was 41% of the vote -- said they can find plenty of free local news and therefore don’t need to pay.

Respondents were also asked how “well” or “not well” they think local news outlets do in several areas.

Areas where more respondents believe local news outlets are doing “well” include reporting news accurately (58%) and providing news that they use daily (55%).

The greater amount of “not well” responses came in the categories of holding leaders accountable (61%), dealing fairly with all sides (53%), covering news thoroughly (52%), being transparent about reporting (52%), or including people like them in stories (51%).

“There’s definitely a lot of nuance when you get into the specifics about what people think news is doing well or not so well,” Binder said in an interview with News4Jax. “And reporting the news accurately, I think is the first step right. If you don’t trust the accuracy of the information you’re getting, you’re left nowhere. That’s important.”

Binder says part of the reason for this particular poll is to understand what’s called the Fourth Estate and how people use or rely on journalism in a democratic society.

“Whether it’s on Channel 4, whether it’s in the local paper, whether it’s on radio, those are things that provide us with the information to make informed decisions,” he said. “And knowing where people stand, what they think -- maybe the media could do better, whether they’re willing to pay for things or not, I think have real implications. And I think everybody’s better off knowing about it.”

The full results from the poll are listed below:

About the Authors:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.