Naila N. Hamdy
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A survey was conducted following the 2011 revolution in Egypt to assess peoples’ attitudes toward media channels during the pre-election transitional period. Factors that might influence news credibility perceptions, such as media reliance, political attitudes, and non-mediated sources were included in the study. Television was rated the highest in credibility, followed by newspapers and the Internet. Those who use the Internet rated online newspapers, news portals and Facebook postings highly. State media continues to have high credibility among less educated and less wealthy Egyptians, the majority of voters. Reliance on online sources proved to be a strong predictor of credibility, while reliance on traditional media did not have the same result. Hierarchical regression analysis indicated that several demographics proved to be a predictor of whether a medium is judged as credible. Political attitudes were found to be a weak predictor of credibility.
The January 25, 2011 revolution transformed Egyptian media into an important forum from which politicians, journalists, and social advocates began an earnest campaign to influence, educate, inform, and persuade citizens. As the country undergoes a process of democratization, the mass media may succeed or fail in performing their primary function, depending on citizen perceptions of media credibility (Wanta & Hu, 1994).
Given the relationship between news media and democracy (Gans, 2003) and the political changes that are occurring in the country, there is a novel interest in how media will affect the manner in which citizens receive political knowledge, form political opinions and participate in the political process. Suffrage has been universal in Egypt since the 1950s. However political participation and voting have gained a much higher level of respect since the revolution as previous elections had not been free.
In the past citizens relied on traditional media, among other sources, for political information. More recently new media sources have joined the information pool. In fact, many observers credited social media with being the main force behind the popular movement against the authoritarian regime, causing the general public to take notice of a medium that had been almost exclusively the reserve of urban youth (Lim, 2012). Media choices have indeed increased. However, unless citizens trust a medium it will have little impact on their political attitudes since mistrust of the media can lead to non-consumption (Gaziano, 1987; Johnson & Kaye, 1998; Kiousis, 2001).
For that reason, it has become important to research and understand media credibility in Egypt. How much do potential voters trust their media choices and which media will gain public trust in the coming years? This study addresses gaps in the literature by exploring contemporary media credibility in Egypt, comparing traditional and online choices, and predicting future media preferences.
Polarization between supporters of political Islam, secular groups and the military caretakers preoccupy the country. Following the 18 day uprising military control remained in place, in the forefront, rather than as previously, in the shadow. A military-Muslim Brotherhood alliance then seemed to have been forged, followed by another brief period of sole military control, finally settling into what appears to be a Muslim Brotherhood-military alliance. It is still unclear whether the nation can really recreate itself and become a democratic one. Although planned parliamentary and presidential elections were held, and the new President Mohamed Morsi is attempting to pull all the political forces together, nonetheless the nation continues to be divided. As of the time of this writing, the elected parliament has been dissolved and suspended, and Egypt remains with no permanent constitution.
In the transitional period, and just a few days before presidential election, results of the election were announced in June of 2012. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF as commonly referred to in the media) declared the country’s parliament dissolved and limited the powers of the president. It appears that the military feared it would lose control of its lucrative economic structure, and perhaps also feared potential prosecution. Shortly after taking office however, Morsi forced the top generals to retire, shuffled the top brass, and revoked the SCAF declared constitutional amendment that gave the military wide powers. (Egypt president forces generals, 2012).
Equally as important as the political changes that have taken place, the transitional period has featured considerable debate about the electoral system, the constitutional changes, the presidential and parliamentary powers and the redesigning of institutions that will influence the outcomes and shape political struggles for years to come (Faris, 2012).
New parliamentary elections will be conducted in the near feature and the new constitution will be written. Egypt’s recent presidential election may be an opportunity to unite the country and strengthen democratic institutions but the power of the military is still unclear and polarization between different political groups has not subsided. At this juncture it is difficult to predict the political future of Egypt.
Egypt has a well-established journalism tradition dating back to the 1800s. However, the media has been under the influence of authoritarian regimes since the 1952 revolution. This is not to say that the media landscape remained static under the former regime. In fact, with the advent of satellite television and the introduction of the Internet in the 1990s, Egypt witnessed the beginning of striking media transformations. As people became exposed to transnational Arab satellite news and global news media, the government was obligated to allow for greater media freedom than was customary. By the early 2000s, the first independent Egyptian newspapers and private satellite channels were launched, marking a new era. Media scholar Rugh (2004) has verified this observation in his work on Arab press systems, classifying Egypt as a country that is transitional in its media development. In addition, the Internet brought the voice of dissent through blogging. By 2005 Egypt’s opposition movements began to use the Internet’s social media to form and expand networks that the authoritarian government could not easily control. Social media use grew and functioned as connection between diverse groups, raising awareness of political ideas and grievances beyond activists to other like-minded publics. Later, these online movements were transformed to offline protests and credited by many for sparking the revolution (Lim, 2012).
Egypt’s media underwent an extraordinary shift immediately after the revolution. As the ruling regime began to crumble, journalists and media professionals became much bolder in their criticism of the cabinet, government cronies, internal governance, foreign policy, and the once untouchable Supreme Council of Armed forces. In addition, with the much publicized role of the Internet and social media in the revolution, adoption of this medium has continued to increase, bringing the influence of many more activists, politicians, journalists and citizens to this sphere. Egypt’s Internet penetration increased to 26.4% and its Facebook penetration doubled in one year after the revolution to 11.4% of that population (Internet World Stats).
The public has become more demanding of their media. No longer accepting the long-standing, rote transmission of slavish support for the regime, protests against state-media and calls for media reform began during the uprising and have, in fact, continued to be a main public demand and the subject of great debate in the new Egypt (El-Zein, 2012).
But this demand for media reform has not yet been fulfilled. After an initial period of unprecedented media freedom, the Information Ministry was revived, pressure on the media from military caretakers was felt, and crackdowns on activists intensified (Abu-Fadil, 2011). With the instatement of a new government alarming signs of substantial setbacks for media freedoms emerged. These signs include the appointment of Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers in key positions in government media, the trial of critics, the confiscation of newspaper issues and shutting down of a television channel (US ‘concerned’ about media freedom, 2012).
Despite the grim scenario it is important to recognize that the development of media freedom must be evolutionary. The journey is a complex process that involves both the political environment and the journalists themselves. Regardless of setbacks, most journalists and media professionals are working hard to give voters vital information as the nation aspires to become democratic. In reality, Egypt’s news media are making a great effort to play a unique role in shaping political attitudes, a role that is regarded as crucial to the development of functioning democracies (Gans, 2003).
Media Credibility and Audience-based Approaches
Media credibility has been the subject of studies and intellectual debates since the early 1940s, proving to be a concept of complex and multidimensional facets (Golan, 2010; Berlo, Lemert, & Mertz, 1970). It is a construct that involves interrelations between the messenger, receiver, message and communication channels; however, academic research is mostly divided into two main dimensions: source credibility and medium credibility.
Source credibility studies have typically focused on the characteristics of the message source such as the communicator and message variables (Hovland, Janis & Kelley, 1953; Sundar, 1998). Medium credibility studies have focused on the medium of delivery and transmission of the message (Gaziano, 1987; Kiousis, 2001, Johnson & Kaye, 1998; Johnson & Kaye, 2002). Cross-media comparisons are predominant, with online media credibility studies comprising a large portion of recent scholarship. Results of online media credibility studies are mixed, ambiguous and sometimes contradictory. (Abdulla, Garrison, Salwen, Driscoll, & Casey, 2005; Johnson & Kaye, 1998; Kiousis, 2001). For instance, when Flanagin and Metzger (2000) compared perceptions of the credibility of online news media to those of other media, they found that the Internet was as credible as broadcast media and magazines but not as credible as newspapers. They also concluded that credibility varied not only by medium but also by the type of information the audiences sought. Other scholars found similar results (Lin, C., & Salwen, M. B. 2006 ). In addition, Golan (2010) has stated that scholars of media credibility point to the influence of audience-based variables in their analysis, indicating that perceptions of credibility are inherent to audience members.
Traditionally, audience-based approaches depended on demographics that focus on variables such as gender, education, and age as predictors of media credibility (e.g. Gunter, 1992). Numerous studies also suggest that how credible people judge a medium to be depends on how often they use it (e.g., Wanta & Hu, 1994). Studies of Internet reliance have shown prediction of credibility (Flanagin & Metzger, 2000; Kiousis, 2001) although mostly outside of the election framework. For instance, even though Johnson & Kaye (1998) found that reliance on the Internet for political information is correlated with how credible people judge online newspapers, news magazines, online candidate literature and issue-oriented sources, this was not the result of other studies (Johnson & Kaye, 2000).
Studies of media credibility in the Arab world, including Egypt have been scarce. Most existing studies have focused on viewership of regional or international media options (Johnson & Fahmy, 2008; El-Nawawy, 2006). The literature does, however, point toward the fact that the public does not trust information that is disseminated by state controlled media (Johnson & Fahmy, 2008). This is evidenced by the public demand for state-media reform during and following the revolution. In addition, there is a sense that those who use online media find it more believable than traditional media because of its ability to circumvent government censorship and control (Khamis, 2011; Lim, 2012). Evidence that independent print media performed more objectively than governmental newspapers during the actual revolution may influence perceptions of credibility (Hamdy & Gomaa, 2012). Yet, so far, there is no scholarship addressing media credibility and political participation in Egypt in view of the recent political changes.
Egypt has a population of 81 million, the most populous country in the Arab Region. Cairo is the largest capital in the Arab region with a population of 19.6 million (Lim, 2012). This study is based on a survey of residents from Greater Cairo, comprising the three governorates of Cairo, Giza, and Qalubiya. It was conducted between September 29, 2011, and October 10, 2011.
A multi-stage sampling process was applied to four quadrants of this area. Each quadrant was further divided into 4–10 neighborhoods based on natural community boundaries, and the socio-economic character of each neighborhood. The 21 neighborhoods used in the study were randomly selected from the socioeconomic clusters. Within each neighborhood 20 houses were systematically selected. Specifically, every 10th household on the 10th street of the neighborhood was included in the sample. If that house was empty, the next 10th household was selected. In each household, the first person who answered the door and/or agreed to respond was surveyed. The ABC system (British system) was used as a means of measuring social class and a reflection of the way Egyptian researchers categorize people.
The researcher trained eight interviewers and two supervisors to conduct the survey face-to-face to bypass low levels of education. The interviewers were selected from a pool of graduate students from Egyptian national universities and trained in interviewing protocol and ethics of survey research. It was important to build a cross-cultural team that could help interviewees feel comfortable despite inter-cultural barriers such as gender and socioeconomic characteristics (Shah, 2004). A total of 431 questionnaires were completed. The response rate was 88 percent.
The questionnaire was adopted from previous studies (A. J. Flanagin and Metzger, 2007; Johnson et al., 2008; Wanta and Hu, 1994). Questions were modified to suit the present study setting and administered in Arabic (See translation in Appendix A). The questionnaire separated mediums into newspapers, television, radio and Internet and asked specific questions relevant to each medium. Because the present study investigates the perceived credibility of news and information, the questions referred to popular sources of news and information specific to Egypt such as talk shows and current affairs programs. The researcher also divided each medium into an ownership type pertinent to Egyptian media. The questions were specific to government partisan/political party presses, independent newspapers, state-owned or private radio, television and local news, and websites, portals, discussion groups, email and popular social media for the Internet (Hamdy & Gomaa, 2012).
Most respondents refused to respond to questions about political ideology and membership in a political party. The study may have been conducted at a time when Egyptians were not comfortable with disclosing such information. In addition, due to the low number of Internet users in Egypt, and more so social media users, the responses to Internet specific questions were low, ranging from 21 to 100 of the 431 valid questionnaires.
In this study the researcher explores medium credibility rates, hypothesizing that credibility judgments are lower for online sources than for traditional media due to the relative newness and nature of the online medium. It was also hypothesized that overall credibility views are lower for state media than for independent sources. For decades state media has been criticized by the public because of its obvious pro-government bias. Furthermore, reformation of the state media was one of the primary demands of the revolutionaries. It was also hypothesized that reliance on media will correlate significantly with the perception of a medium’s credibility, despite the fact that the literature is somewhat ambiguous on the issue of media use and perceived credibility (Westley & Severin, 1964; Rimmer &Weaver, 1982; Kirous, 2001). Up to this point however there has been no information specific to Egypt.
A second research question was posed to determine whether demographics predict a user’s perception of media credibility. It was hypothesized that demographic variables will correlate positively. Finally, a third question was posed to determine whether political attitudes predict perceptions of media credibility.
Based on a distillation of the scales most commonly used by researchers, (Flanagin & Metzger, 2000; Gaziano & McGrath, 1986; Johnson & Kaye, 1998; Meyer, 1988) four items, accuracy, trustworthiness, balance, and depth, were used to measure media credibility for both traditional and online sources of political information. For each item the response options were on a five-point scale that included: 1=I do not know, 2=Never, 3=Sometimes, 4=Often, and 5=Very often. A credibility index was summarized for each online and traditional source by combining the mean scores of each measure.
Questions extrapolated responses to perceived credibility of television news, political talk shows, radio news and commentary, newspaper coverage including opinion columns and editorials. Metzger, Flanagin, Eval, Lemus, and McCann (2003) have highlighted that measuring the credibility of the Internet is complex. For that reason, questions addressing various types of Internet news sources, such as online newspapers, blogs, Facebook news sites, groups, posts and Twitter posts were added to the questionnaire.
Demographic information was collected to put the results in perspective and to test whether demographics are relevant predictors of credibility. Respondents were asked about their gender, age group, monthly income, occupation and educational level.
Independent variables included levels of political interest, and political involvement post revolution, and the likelihood of voting. A self-efficacy statement modeled after those used by Johnson & Kaye (2010), “I consider myself as a politically interested person” was employed. Respondents were asked to judge on a 5-point scale the degree to which they have become involved in politics since the revolution. The responses ranged from “strongly agree (5)” to “strongly disagree (1)” on indicative questions about their involvement in politics and their intention to vote in upcoming elections.
Ideology measures that rely on the respondent’s ideological self-placement on the liberal-conservative continuum were included in the questionnaire with a 5-point scale: 1= very liberal, 2=liberal, 3=moderate, 4=conservative and 5=very conservative. The political ideology, interest, involvement and reliance scales were adapted from Johnson & Fahmy (2008) and Johnson & Kaye (2010).
To assess the influence of media reliance on the perceptions of credibility, respondents were asked to rate their usage levels for traditional print media, broadcast media, and online media. The 5-point scale ranged from “very often rely” to “never rely.”
First, frequency distributions were obtained to check for data entry errors and to obtain descriptive statistics. Then, mean scores were calculated for fairness, depth, accuracy and trustworthiness credibility measures. The Cronbach alpha testing of the reliability of the index is .829. This indicates that internal consistency is good.
Initially, Pearson’s correlations coefficients were conducted to get a primary understanding of the complex relationships among demographics, media reliance, political involvement, political ideology and the four credibility measures. Subsequently, regression analysis was chosen to examine the proposed relationships. Additionally, scales were factor analyzed to determine the underlying dimensions of each scale utilizing a 1.0 eigenvalue factoring criterion, the Varimax rotation and the principal component analysis extraction method. Finally, the demographic variables of age group, education, employment, gender and income were used as independent measures in hierarchical regression to determine whether they are strong predictors of perceptions of medium credibility. The same procedure was repeated for political variables to also determine which are predictors of perceptions of medium credibility.
Respondents: Demographics and Characteristics
Of the 431 respondents from the 21 neighborhoods of Greater Cairo, 41% were between the ages of 18 and 29, and 28% were between the ages of 30 and 41. Another 18.1% were between the ages of 42 and 53 and 11.1% were between the ages of 54 and 65. Only 1.6% of the sample was over 65. Females represented 54% of the sample and males represented 45.9%. Only 28% had a university degree and 39% held general secondary school certificates (high school equivalent). Many respondents, 48.5%, were not formally employed; 11% were students while the remaining 39.9% were formally employed. The majority, 92%, reported an annual income of 4000 USD or less per person.
Overall, the sample was representative of Cairo residents. Figures are similar to those obtained by the Cairo Census reports. The government of Egypt offers a central gateway of official statistics on a wide range of social and economic data through their statistics agency: Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics-CAPMAS. The last demographic
survey (population and housing) was conducted in 2006 with results made available in 2008. These are available through CAPMAS Egypt in Figures Gateway: http://www.msrintranet.campmas.gov.eg/pls/educ/egpt_all?LANG=0&1name=free.
Among the respondents, 67.3% (mean = 4.51) relied heavily on television for information, 3.5% (mean = 1.29) on radio, 16% (mean = 2.14) on newspapers, and 13. 5% (mean = 1.81) on the Internet. Since few relied on radio for news and information, radio results were removed from the analysis. Few responded to the question on their political ideology.
But respondents reported their political activities and interests. Only 10.9% were very interested in political activities, and the majority were either “not interested” or “not at all interested” (36.7% and 37.4%, respectively), indicating a low level of political sophistication. The percentage of respondents who reported that they had become more politically active, post- revolution was 9.1%. On the other hand, an overwhelming 72.4% reported being not involved in politics prior to the revolution, and only 7.4% also agreed that they had been previously involved. Results showed that only 16.9% intended to vote in upcoming parliamentary elections and 14.2% for the presidential elections.
Media Credibility Results
Research question 1: How will (a) television, (b) newspapers, and (c) Internet news and other information sources rate as fair, in-depth, accurate, and trustworthy?
By the mid-1980s, television had become a major news and information source for many Egyptians. Television is both oral and visual, which helped those with low education levels become more aware of the world around them, causing scholars to hypothesize that Egyptians have profited the most from the simpler nature of this medium. However, the information provided was strictly controlled by the state. It was not until the late ‘90s that control eased and citizens received alternate information via satellite television or online sources (Khamis, 2011).
The present study showed that trust in television as a medium, despite alternative choices, continues to remain high. Television credibility had a mean score of 3.60, with newspapers close behind at a mean score of 3.56. The Internet had a mean score of 3.47 (See Table 1).
Television credibility rated highest among the media. Detailed results indicate that respondents rated the credibility of private television as slightly higher than that of state television. The mean scores for “fairness,” “accuracy,” “depth of information” and “trustworthiness” showed that, overall, respondents rated the credibility of private television slightly higher than that of state television. The mean scores for each measure: fair, in-depth, accuracy, trustworthiness, were in the upper 3.00 ranges which corresponded with “sometimes”. Only “fairness” for state television was higher than 4.0. State television scored lowest on the “depth of information” construct. (See Table 1)
As for the three different types of Egyptian newspapers, government, partisan and independent, available to the public, respondents rated their credibility in the upper 3.00 ranges on a scale of 1-5. (See Table 1) However on the detailed scale they gave higher credibility scores to partisan and independent newspapers, leaving the government newspapers behind. The partisan newspapers in turn scored higher than independent papers with a mean of 4.68, which falls in the “most of the time” category. (See Table 2)
Online sources scored in the mid 3.00 range corresponding to “sometimes”. Details show that they were generally judged highly in terms of “fairness,” although the lowest of these scores were for online newspapers and portals with a mean score of 4.37. Twitter was judged as the fairest at a mean of 4.50. On the other hand, online newspapers were rated as having the highest “accuracy” rate, with a mean of 3.382, the highest “depth of information” rate with a mean of 4.06, and the highest “trustworthiness” rate with a mean of 4.06. These scores may reflect a credibility transfer caused by their associations with their traditional counterparts. (See Table 1)
Further analyses of Internet variables show that online sources of news were perceived as high in the “fairness” category even though they may have suffered in other categories. In the categories of “fair”, “In depth”, “accurate” and “trusted” for Egyptian news websites’ media credibility scores were mean 4.0, 3.82, 4.06, 4.06, and 2.80 respectively. For Egyptian blogs, the scores were mean 2.80, 2.68, 2.68, and 2.80. Facebook posts and groups had scores of mean 3.58, 3.47, 3.55, and 3.50. And Facebook’s Egypt exclusive news sites ranked means of 3.72, 3.58, 3.75, and 3.64. Tweets from Twitter influencers drew means of 3.10, 3.10, 2.95 and 3.0. For political information via email the means were 3.03, 2.98, 2.95, and 2.95. Finally, for Egyptian party political websites the mean scores were 3.00, 2.80, 2.80 and 3.04 respectively (See Table 2).
A Principal Axis Factor (PAF) with a Varimax (orthogonal) rotation of 25 of the 19 Likert scale questions was conducted from the survey questionnaire. The results of the rotation of the solution are reported in Table 3. When loadings less than 0.6.0 were excluded, the analysis yielded a three-factor solution with a simple structure (factor loadings =>.60).
Ten items were loaded onto Factor 1. Emails and videos sent to personal emails is the highest loaded item for Factor 1 (.943); Egyptian blogs are also strong (.935). Trustworthiness loaded highly for Egyptian blogs (.906). Depth was most dominant for Egyptian blogs (.920), Tweets from influential persons (.650) and emails and videos sent to personal emails were strong also. (.882). Accuracy loaded well for Egyptian blogs (.906) as it did also for emails and videos sent to personal emails (.687). These results illustrate Factor 1 solution scores that are not apparent in newspapers, or television, pointing to an interesting difference when comparing perceptions of credibility for online and traditional media.
The four items loaded onto Factor 2 related to online newspapers and news portals, Facebook posts, education, and regular use of television. This suggests a positive relationship between perceived high credibility of online news, Facebook information, education and television viewing. Factor 2 also shows Egyptian newspapers and news portals online (.821) to be the highest loaded factor followed by posts on Facebook accounts and groups (.672). Education had a medium load factor (.600) as did regular use of television (.647).
The 5 items that load onto Factor 3 relate mainly to Internet information. The Factor 3 solution, shows relationships with employment (.724), fairness of private satellite television (.681), trustworthiness of Facebook news sites (.761), accuracy of Facebook news sites (.752) and depth of Facebook news sites (.699) (See Table 3).
Thus Factor analysis uncovered a major pattern with regard to Internet news and information users, showing them to have high positive perceptions of credibility for that medium. A second pattern revealed a causal relationship between education, television usage, online newspapers and Facebook posts. And a third pattern revealed the relationship between employment and positive perceptions of Facebook news sites. The Factor analyses provided a picture of some of the forces that differentiate perceived media credibility. The evidence points to the fact that online media work best in facilitating interaction among groups and providing them with networking power.
Hypothesis 1: Overall credibility judgments for all online sources will be lower than for traditional media.
Respondents rated online credibility as fair (mean = 3.52), in-depth (mean = 3.39), accurate (mean = 3.49), and trustworthy (mean = 3.50), but gave higher scores to traditional media. Overall, this does not necessarily mean that respondents found traditional media more believable. Internet users are fewer in number, but those who use the Internet do indeed rate their news and information sources quite positively. (See Table 2)
There was a significant positive Pearson correlation between scores on the medium credibility measure for the Internet (r = .514, p = 0.00) only. Television and newspapers did not show positive correlations (r=0.143, p= 0.14) and (r=0.135. p=0.58) proving that Hypothesis 1 was not supported.
Hypothesis 2: Overall credibility judgments for all state media sources will be lower than for independent sources.
The higher an individual’s level among the demographic groups associated with this study, i.e. older along the age group scale, higher level of education and higher level of income, the less likely they are to perceive television as highly credible. As for gender, it was hypothesized that males will judge state media sources as having lower credibility than independent sources.
Mean scores for state media, whether television stations or government newspapers, were lower than those reported for private television or opposition party press and independent sources. This implies that audiences do have a higher perception of the latter, as indicated in Table 2. (Note that government newspapers reflect the agenda of ruling governments while opposition party press sources are those published by the non-ruling parties.)
A Pearson correlation was conducted to see if there were causal relationships between demographic characteristics and media credibility measures for state media versus non-state media.
A positive correlation was detected between age groups and the “in-depth” level of state television sources, r (.109) = .047 and the “fairness” of opposition party newspapers r (.057) = .455. Negative correlations were also detected for age groups and “in-depth” status of opposition party newspapers r (-.227) = .029, “accuracy” r (-.233) = .025 and “trustworthiness” r (-.238) = .022. Younger people view opposition party presses as more credible.
For education, negative correlations were found for “fairness” r (-.113) =.020, “in-depth” extent (-.205) =0.00, “accurate” r (-.161) =0.03, and “trustworthiness” r (-.150) = .006. for state television. And negative correlations were also found with “fairness” r (-.190) = 0.17 for government newspapers. As predicted, the less educated people are, the more likely they are to view state media as credible.
Positive correlations were proved between income levels and “trustworthiness r (.147) = .069 for national newspapers, and “in-depth” extent r ( .084) = .428 for opposition newspapers.
Negative correlations were found for income levels and “fairness” r (-.185) = .000, “in-depth” extent r ( -.144) = .009, “accuracy” r (-.134) = .014, and “trustworthiness” r ( -.145) = .008, for state television. Negative correlations were also found for income levels and “fairness” r (-.175)=0.00, “in-depth” extent r (- .181) = .000, “accuracy” r (-.239) = 0.00, and “trust” -.214 = .000, for national newspapers. And negative correlations were visible for income levels and “fairness” r (-.177) = .021, for opposition party newspapers and “trustworthiness” r (-.177) = .038 for independent newspapers. The lower the income level of the reader, the more likely credibility will be given to government media.
For gender, positive correlations were found with “trustworthiness” of national newspapers r (.042) = .606, “in-depth” extent r (.030) =.777. and “accuracy” r (.033) = .755, for opposition party newspapers. In this study men were more likely to give credence to information from opposition party presses.
In a positive correlation, as the values of one of the variables increase, the values of the second variable also increase, thus we can conclude that for each demographic the chances of higher perceived credibility increases. Conversely, in the case a negative correlation we can conclude that for each demographic the possibility of highly perceived credibility decreases. The data from this study did not support the vast differences hypothesized. Therefore, Hypothesis 2 was only partially supported.
Hypothesis 3: Reliance on traditional and online news sources will correlate significantly with the perception of a medium’s credibility.
There was no causal positive correlation found between traditional media reliance and perceived credibility: television r (0.143) = 0.14, and newspapers r (0.135) = 0.58.
However, Hypothesis 3 was partially supported as a significant correlation was found between Internet reliance and its perceived credibility r (0.514) = 0.00.
The possible range of the credibility measures was 1–5, with higher scores indicating higher levels of credibility. Thus, there was a significant positive correlation between scores on the reliance measures and credibility measures for the Internet at the .05 level. The Wanta & Hu study found that a person’s perceived credibility of a medium is strongly related to the person’s reliance on the medium. This study’s results only supported that proposition in relation to Internet usage, at least during the period when this study was conducted.
It is also noteworthy that studies conducted in the West have shown that Internet credibility increased exponentially during the period from 1996 to 2000 (Abdulla et al., 2005). However, more recent research suggests that trust in the Internet later declined (Johnson & Kaye, 2010). The earlier Johnson and Kaye study (1998) found that online media was viewed as slightly more credible than print media, but both were judged as “somewhat” credible. Nonetheless, contradictions abound. Other research has found traditional media to be judged as more credible than the Internet (e.g., Pew Research Center, 1996, as cited in Kiousis, 2001). Egyptian internet development patterns access, adoption and availability of local content, have been much slower than for more developed countries. Thus, results are similar to those found in earlier Western studies. In addition, the Internet was the only space available for Egyptian activists to fight against state-controlled mainstream media from the mid 2000s to the outbreak of the 2011 revolution. It became the only source of uncensored information to reach the public, and the medium of choice for a large portion of the educated, urban population (Lim, 2012).
Reliance on online and traditional sources as a predictor of Internet credibility was also examined by regression analysis procedure. Johnson and Kaye’s 2010 study showed reliance on both online and traditional sources is a very strong measure of whether individuals deem online sources as credible (Johnson & Kaye, 2010). But the results of this study show that reliance on the Internet only is a positive predictor of credibility. After excluding all non-significant standardized β coefficients (p > .05), the data indicated that those who rely on Internet newspapers and news portals find them credible (β = .3.66, p < .000) and therefore the ANOVA results showed statistical significance (F = 8.54, df = 4, sig. =.000). As for those who rely on political party websites, they also find the Internet credible (β = . 5.273, p < .000). The ANOVA results also show statistical significance (F = 9.20, df = 4, sig. =.000).
There was no relationship found between television reliance and prediction of credibility. There were no statistically significant differences as determined by one-way ANOVA (F= 1.726, df = 4, sig. =.144). Similarly, it was also found that there is no relationship between newspaper reliance and prediction of credibility. There were no statistically significant differences as determined by one-way ANOVA (F= .988, df = 8, sig. =.452).
Research Question 2: How will demographics predict a user’s perception of the medium’s credibility for (a) television, (b) newspapers (c) Internet news and information sources?
Hypothesis 1: Age, education, employment, gender, and income will correlate significantly with perceptions of online media credibility.
The influence of demographics on media credibility was found to make a difference. Education, age, and income are related to media credibility in many studies, including the seminal study by Westley and Serverin (1964), which has also been supported by more contemporary research (Gunther, 1992; Kiousis, 2001).
Hierarchal regression analysis was performed to investigate the predictive powers of demographics, with the credibility index serving as the dependent variable. Such analyses allow a researcher to determine the proportion of variance attributable to an independent variable after accounting for the variance of independent variables already in the equation. As shown in Table 5, education was a significant positive predictor of the credibility of television, (β -.093, .034), and so was income (β, -.277 p=.000).
As for newspapers, analyses shows that only income (β -.160, p=.057) is a positive significant predictor of credibility. The credibility of the Internet as a source of news and information is predicted by two of the demographic variables: education (β -.188, p=.042) and gender (β .404, p=..012).
On the whole, demographics can be predictors of medium credibility in Egypt. Hypothesis 1 was partially supported by the data, as some, but not all of the demographic characteristics tested, education, income and gender do function as predictors. (See Table 4)
Research Question 3: How will respondents’ political attitudes predict their perception of the credibility of (a) television, (b) newspapers, and (c) Internet news and information sources?
Hypothesis 1: Political attitudes (activity and interest) will correlate significantly with perceptions of the medium’s credibility.
Johnson and Kaye (2008) reported that most political variables only weakly predict online credibility and that most researchers have ignored the effects of political variables on traditional measures of credibility. The present study used hierarchical regression procedure to test for relationships between medium credibility and the following political variables: interest in politics, political activity post-revolution, involvement in political activity, intention to vote in the parliamentary elections, and intention to vote in the presidential elections.
The model in Table 5 shows that television credibility was predicted by heightened political activity following the revolution (p < .021), and newspaper’s credibility was predicted by general interest in politics (p < .000). Internet credibility was not predicted by any of the political variables.
Egyptians have now held genuine elections. With this, it has become evident that there is a paucity of knowledge about their perceived trust of media at a time when they most needed the media for political information. This study fills a gap by answering questions that focus on medium credibility and its predictors.
Three sets of findings were obtained, providing insight. The results reveal that television is the medium with the highest overall credibility rates, followed by newspapers and the Internet, respectively. The Internet has a relatively small number of users in comparison to traditional media. Nonetheless, credibility among those who rely on that medium is high. The Internet has, in the last decade, become a significant source of news and information for a third of the population; therefore, even though it rated as less credible overall than traditional media, it is clearly, exceptionally important. Additionally, contrary to popular belief, state media, whether television or newspapers, continues to have a major influence on audiences seeking information.
Just as noteworthy is the observed positive perception of Internet credibility indicated in the factor analysis. It has become more mainstream. Trust has increased not just in traditional online news sites, but also in alternative information from social media applications such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook. This phenomenon may be explained by the assumption prevalent in Egypt that social media did indeed play a key role in the January uprising, as it facilitated networking between activists and the public, and allowed for the circumvention of government censorship. A negative beta slope in the regression analysis also suggests that online sources are more likely to be perceived positively among younger users than among older generations. In the meantime, media content and usage will continue to evolve in post-revolutionary Egypt. This is a finding that is important for decision makers, particularly as the youth of Egypt become more comfortable with the online medium.
Now the question arises, if, and how, these perceptions of media can affect current political outcomes. If the majority of Egyptian citizens perceive state media (television and newspapers) not too differently from the credibility of partisan or private media, and credibility patterns are similar even among the politically active, this indicates that state media can, and probably will, still have a major influence on audiences seeking information. In fact, the very concept of private/independent media is relatively new in Egypt thus it will take time for audiences to differentiate differences. The survey results suggest that only the well educated and wealthier members of the public may find non-government television and press more credible. Furthermore, partisan media which has existed longer than private media suffered from government restrictions and lack of funding. Given these facts, then what is the next step for media reform?
Not only is the extent of media freedoms and ownership important, but also the skill of citizens in their ability to analyze media content, their media literacy, is important and can, and will, also affect their choices. Higher quality journalism is not easily identifiable to the most sophisticated readers, even to those who are media professionals. Constructs like bias, truthfulness and objectivity are difficult for most to analyze. Egyptians are still learning to interpret the multiple messages to which they are now exposed. In the meantime, the private/independent media themselves are still learning how to raise general journalistic standards.
Those who have confidence in online news and information sources are also likely to believe in the fairness of their sources, whether online traditional newspapers, blogs or Facebook posts. However, generally, even these users rate the extent to which the online information is in-depth, accurate and trustworthy, as very slightly lower than traditional news sources. These perceptions may change in time. But for the moment, and in line with recent studies, social media and other Internet sources are enjoying very high credibility because of the role in the revolution (Lim, 2012). Traditional media paid homage to the force and effectiveness of the role of online media in the revolution, thus adding to its credibility and status.
The second set of findings responded to the hypothesized notion that media reliance is a strong predictor of credibility. Reliance did not prove to be a predictor for traditional media, and only weakly predicted credibility in the case of the Internet.
The third set of findings, deduced through hierarchical regression analysis, confirmed that the demographic characteristics of education and income, and heightened political activity in the post-revolutionary Egypt, are primary predictors of television credibility, while income and general interest in politics predict newspaper credibility. Education and gender predict Internet credibility; measures of political activity do not predict Internet credibility. It can be safely assumed that television as a medium is the most powerful tool for transmitting political information to citizens of lower education and income during peaks of political activity. Newspapers are better at reaching those of higher income levels with an interest in politics at all times. And, the Internet is best used as an organizational and mobilizing tool to reach the better educated citizens, but it is not necessarily their source for political information.
Post-revolution society and media continue to change. This study shows that television maintains its dominance and credibility. Newspapers, whether government controlled or not, remain less influential with the larger public. The Internet may have created an effective tool for mobilizing the revolution but its ultimate role is likely to be a neutral tool for the dissemination of information even as it continues to attract more users.
The present research focuses on the importance of media credibility, assuming that Egypt will safely transit to a democratic state. The door to political evolution has only just opened; the political outcomes of the revolution are still unfolding.
Media Credibility Survey (translated from Arabic)
Section I – Background information