La (des)confianza de los periodistas españoles hacia las instituciones públicas a partir del estudio de factores organizacionales - Núm. 9-1, Enero 2016 - Anuario electrónico de estudios en Comunicación Social "Disertaciones" - Libros y Revistas - VLEX 653383957

La (des)confianza de los periodistas españoles hacia las instituciones públicas a partir del estudio de factores organizacionales

AutorRosa Berganza Conde - Beatriz Herrero - Adolfo Carratalá
CargoUniversidad Rey Juan Carlos - Universitat Rovira I Virgili - Universitat de València
Anuario electrónico de estudios en Comunicación Social
ISSN: 1856-9536
Doi de la revista:
Volumen 9, Número 1 / enero-junio 2016
Versión PDF para imprimir desde
Berganza Conde, Rosa. Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (Spain)
Herrero, Beatriz. Universitat Rovira I Virgili (Spain)
Carratalá, Adolfo. Universitat de València (Spain)
Received: 30 July 2015
Accepted: 25 September 2015
The scientific community has shown an increasing interest in exploring the practices and routines of journalists
in dierent contexts (Hanitzsch et al., 2011). The trust journalists place in public institutions is a key variable to
understand their professional culture (Hanitzsch & Berganza, 2012; Brants, de Vreese, Möller & van Praag, 2010; van
Dalen, Albæk & de Vreese, 2011), as well as citizens’ interest and trust in politics (Cappella & Jamieson, 1997). The
goal of this paper is to identify the level of trust of Spanish journalists in public institutions and to verify whether
media type, regional scope and ownership influence these trust levels. As part of the “Worlds of Journalism Study”,
an international research project, we surveyed a probabilistic sample (n=390) of Spanish journalists, stratified by
media type and region, from March 2014 to May 2015. In comparison to the results of the last survey carried out by
Hanitzsch & Berganza (2014), the findings of this study show a significant decrease in trust levels (specially towards
politicians), probably as a consequence of the economic crisis. The analysis also revealed partial dierences in
journalists’ trust levels according to media type (TV, radio, printed press, online press, etc.), but showed homoge-
neous trust levels among journalists working for media with dierent geographical reach (regional, national) and
ownership (public, private, etc.). It is necessary to further develop this line of research with explanatory models
that allow delving into the origins of the distrust of Spanish journalists.
Keywords: Trust, public institutions, journalists, media, politics.
1 This paper is a translation. The original text, peer-reviewed and edited is published in Spanish in the same
volume and issue.
Anuario electrónico de estudios en Comunicación Social
ISSN: 1856-9536
Doi de la revista:
Volumen 9, Número 1 / enero-junio 2016
Versión PDF para imprimir desde
The role of the media in citizens’ distrust in public institutions
The diicult economic situation that aects the whole of Spain since 2008, as a result of the international financial
crisis, has been exacerbated by the weakness of the production model in which the country had based its growth
in the years prior to the crisis, and by the continuous succession of political scandals - mostly related to corrup-
tion crimes – surrounding the dierent political parties and striking all levels of government. This scenario clearly
influences citizens’ perception of public institutions, as documented by the most recent surveys of public opinion.
According to a survey carried out in 2015 by the Spanish Sociological Research Centre (CIS), the public perceives
the current political situation as problematic, largely due to political corruption. The situation is not exclusive to
Spain, since, according to the Eurobarometer survey, which collects data from 2003-2013, the distrust of citizens
towards political parties grew significantly from 2008 in southern European countries where political and eco-
nomic problems have also worsened (like in Spain), especially Portugal and Greece. Unlike what happens with
northern European countries, in the southern European countries the levels of distrust towards political parties,
the government and the parliament are the highest since 2003. Citizens’ dissatisfaction with democracy is very
similar; as Mair (2006, p. 6) points out, “never before in the history of post-war Europe have governments and their
political leaders […] been held in such low regard”.
The decline in the trust placed by citizens in the institutions that govern and manage the co-existence of societies
(the parliament, the government, political parties, judiciary, police, politicians) clearly indicates that people do
not believe in the capacity of action of these agents. Trust, as Misztal (1996) points out, involves projecting hope
in the future, and believing that the performance of a particular person or institution will respond to our wishes.
Institutional trust, therefore, involves having a high expectation that an institution will act satisfactorily in the
future (Hudson, 2006). When this belief fails, mistrust dominates citizens’ perception of public authorities, aect-
ing the welfare of societies. As a result, citizens develop a cynical attitude that will dominate their perception of
reality even if there is no supporting evidence, which is a disposition characterised by the understanding that the
political system is corrupt and that its representatives are partisan and Machiavellian agents who do not care for
the common good nor good governance, and only want to get out victorious of every process and activity in which
they are involved (Capella & Jamieson, 1977).
The media have been identified as potential explanatory factors of why citizens do not trust in their representatives.
In other words, the negative media coverage of public institutions and political actors would contribute to a growing
detachment of citizens from these agents. This is one of the arguments of the so-called media malaise theory (Robin-
son, 1976), which points out that a predominantly adverse and anti-institutional news framing has clear eects in the
receiver: “a negative and highly critical media treatment of the political institutions and politicians has resulted in an
increase in the negative opinions and perceptions about political objects” (Uriarte, 2002, p. 364).
The spiral of cynicism theory points out in the same direction. According to this theory, the style and content of
political journalism can encourage increased cynicism and distrust towards public institutions in the audience if,
for example, the news persistently respond to a pattern of negativity. In addition, as Capella and Jamieson (1997)
point out, the influence of the media is greater in those topics in which our direct experience is scarce. Therefore,
since citizens usually do not have close contact with their leaders nor their political campaigns and performances,

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