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Data analysis: Donald Trump v The Media - who do people trust more?

President Donald Trump calls on a reporter during a news conference
Trump has once again lambasted the media after a chaotic first month in charge Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman, TV star and now US president, has smashed records for poor approval ratings among Americans.

After his victory on a wave of anti-establishment anger, it took just eight days for him to gain a majority disapproval rating, according to Gallup polling, with 51 per cent of Americans saying they disapproved of the President in late January.

But, his lowest approval ratings breaking records, there is an institution that the American people dislike even more than the presidency: the media.

In a press conference called on Thursday, Trump returned to his favourite territory of attacking the media. He described the BBC sarcastically as "another beauty", told journalists to "sit down" and claimed "I’d be a good reporter".

Trump said: "I don't mind bad stories. I can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it's true. But I'm not OK when it is fake. I mean, I watch CNN, it's so much anger and hatred and just the hatred."

Even though such an attack may dismay the reporters asking the president questions, polls show that Trump may well be picking his fights well.

He is singling out people that the public scorn more than himself. While 36 per cent of Americans said they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the institution of the presidency in June, just 21 per cent said the same of TV news - dropping to 20 per cent among newspapers. 

Even though this polling - the latest available - was conducted before Donald Trump took the office of the presidency, it still highlights the vulnerable position of the press.

The media is languishing in a downward spiral of public trust. Just a quarter of people had confidence in newspapers and TV news when Barack Obama took office - down from almost two out of five people when Bush came to power in 2000.

This same rate is now one in five - and with the rise of alternative far-right media, social media filter bubbles and the dismissive "fake news" accusation for anything the president doesn't like, this trend looks unlikely to change.

The only institutions that the American people have lower confidence in than the media are big business and Congress.

Despite losing the popular vote by 2.9 million ballots, the Republican President managed to win the election by relying on his "forgotten men and women" in certain key swing states.

These people generally don't support the mainstream media and back his anti-establishment policies to "drain the swamp".

By attacking the press and other similar unpopular institutions, Trump is appealing to his loyal fanbase. Many voters feel that the establishment is in it for itself and not for them. Trump saw this dissatisfaction and gave Americans a way to voice their anger.

He is well aware that this is still the case, and is employing the same strategy to attack an institution which is struggling to connect with the public. In doing so, he also delegitimises an industry that will be scrutinising his administration and holding him to account for his time in office.

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