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New Survey Shows Montanans Value, Trust Local Media

A new survey released Thursday shows Montanans value and trust local news sources, and the most important issues for rural and urban residents are pretty similar, including jobs and the state’s economy.

John Baldridge with the University of Montana's Bureau of Business and Economic Research oversaw the survey, which asked almost 600 adults which news sources are the most credible. 

“One thing that I want to point out here is that among the top sources, local broadcast TV, local weekly newspapers, local daily papers, local radio are all at the top. Local, local, local and local,” says Baldridge during a news conference live-streamed from Helena.

When asked to write in which specific news sources are the most credible, Fox News made the top of the list with 15 percent, followed by NPR. The third highest response was “all news is biased" or “I trust none.”

Ninety-seven percent of Montanans who wrote in FOX News identified as Republican. Montanans who wrote in CNN, CBS or NPR identified as Democrat. 

FOX News also ranked higher in trustworthiness among residents living in rural counties, whereas CNN, CBS and NPR ranked higher in urban counties.

Jobs and the state economy was rated as the most important issue, followed by healthcare and spending and state taxes. Baldridge says the rankings for issues that Montanans care the most about are pretty similar between rural and urban communities.

“It’s a little bit counterintuitive to average Montanans. They think that if they’re from eastern Montana that they’re really different from those folks in Missoula. But over my 20-plus years during survey research, that isn’t always the case and often isn’t the case,” says Baldridge.

But he says there are big differences when looking at people’s political party identifications. Republicans are more interested in jobs, the economy and state taxes. Democrats are more interested in healthcare and education. The drug issue came to the top for Independents.

The survey found more people are getting their news from the internet and mobile phones compared to the last survey in 2016. More respondents said they’re also getting their news from a wider variety of online sources but that each individual source is used more intermittently. 

The survey was commissioned by the Greater Montana Foundation and conducted by BBER. It was mailed to Montana residents in March who could respond via mail or online.