December 22, 2023 8:00am

Austin Power Poll gets input on trusted institutions and leading news sources

Local governments most often cited as inspiring the most confidence

Photo of Ken Herman
Austin, TX Correspondent
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In this era of cynicism and distrust in major instititions, Austin Power Poll this month sought local political, business, community and governmental leaders input on what institutions have their confidence amd where they get their news.

Local governments - defined in the poll as city, county and school boards - topped the responses to the question about what level of government inspires the most trust and confidence. Thirty-nine percent of respondents cited local government atop the list of offered options.

But in a nod to what seems to be a prevailing national notion, “none of the above” was a strong second at 27%. State government was third at 18% and the federal government came in last at 16%.

Power Poll also asked respondents to pinpoint the institution that has their highest trust and confidence. Twelve varied categories were offered as possible answers. The most common answer - at 17% - was the unspecified “other.”

Tops among the listed institutions was the judicial branch of government at 14% Next was the military and health care providers at 11% and organized religion and public schools at 10%.

Eugene Sepulveda, chief executive officer at Culturati, said reports he has seen indicate “evidently we no longer trust any institutions but we do, relatively so, trust our employer.”

“The Hispanic community especially holds high expectations for advancement, empowerment and societal impact. The payoff for those providing these will be huge,” Sepulveda said.

Fred Heldenfels, president at chief executive officer of Heldenfels Enterprises, said “The only ‘institution’ in which I have total confidence is the Church - big ‘C’.”

Susana Almanza, executive director of PODER, a social and environmental justice nonprofit based in East Austin, said “The only institutions I have trust in are grassroots organizations addressing environmental and social justice issues.”

Melynda Caudle, president of Cooper Consulting Co., said “(It’s) pretty sad when you must agonize over who you distrust least when answering a who do you trust most question, isn't it?”

Power Poll also wanted to know where the Austin area respondents turn for their local and national news. For news of the area, the Austin American-Statesman, the region’s major daily newspaper, was the most common answer at 21%. Second was KXAN, the local NBC affiliate at 16%. KUT radio was the third highest outlet at 15%.

Of note is the fact that the four local network-affiliated TV stations combined for 30%.

For national news, the New York Times was tops at 23%, though 32% of respondents listed “other,” eschewing the offered choices that included the Times, Washington Post (4%), Fox News (second at 13%), NBC/MSNBC (11%), ABC (8%), CNN (7%) and CBS (1%).

“Other” was picked by 31%.

John Hawkins, president and chief executive officer of the Texas Hospital Association, said his primary source for national news is PBS Newshour. Andrew Swanson, principal at Centric Commercial said the Wall Street Journal is where he primarily turns for national news.

Austin lawyer Bill Jones also cited the Wall Street Journal as his primary source for national news, praising it as offering “the most balanced reporting in my view. Most especially Peggy Noonan’s editorials.”

Andy Cates, owner of Cates Legal Group, said his primary go-to source for national news is the POTUS channel on the Sirius/XM satellite radio service.

Pflugerville City Council Memner Rudy Metayer has a healthy view on news products.

“Many of us do not have a primary source of information for news,” he said. “It’s varied. Especially if you are looking to get a balanced perspective on a given issue.”

Metayer said Community Impact “is just as important to me as the Austin Monitor or Statesman. Same goes for KXAN and KVUE.” He also turns to a broad menu of news outlets for national news, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Hill, Axios, Reuters, the Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, PBS and MSNBC.

“The problem I see in our society is that people are ‘forum shopping’ too much to get a viewpoint that confirms their own biases. We have to get out of our silos. Listen to viewpoints that may be antithetical to our own perspectives,” Metayer said.

“We all live in Central Texas. We all live in Texas. We all live in the United States,” he concluded. “It’s important to listen to all perspectives. Not just the ones we like.”

Power Poll Members: Do you have a friend or colleague who should be on Power Poll? Please invite them to join!

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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