PBS and Member Stations Voted ‘Most Trusted’ Institution for 18 Consecutive Years

Apr 23, 2021

For the eighteenth year in a row, Americans named PBS the “most trusted institution” in a nationwide survey. According to the results, PBS continues to outscore government institutions and media sources—such as digital platforms, commercial broadcast and cable television, newspapers, and social media— in both trust and value.

When schools across the country shut down in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, PBS and its member stations stepped in and partnered with local school systems to ensure that children had access to educational resources. As such, PBS KIDS continues to serve as a trusted source for children, educators and parents alike. Sixty-one percent of all respondents named PBS KIDS the most educational media brand, and 86% of parents agreed that PBS KIDS helps prepare children for success in school.

PBS is not only the most trusted, but it also appeals to a wide array of viewers. According to the survey, a vast majority characterize PBS content as relevant and appealing to a diverse viewership. In fact, 74% percent believe that PBS content appeals to people of different ethnic backgrounds, and 70% believe PBS does a good job of representing people of color across its content.

“Year after year, Americans continue to place their trust in PBS and our local stations, and that trust is especially important during this time of misinformation and uncertainty,” said PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger. “Through an abiding commitment to exceptional journalism, editorial integrity and diverse storytelling, public television is a destination for the kind of educational media that strengthens communities and changes lives.”

DOWNLOAD PBS TRUST FLYER 2021 (2.5MB PDF)

Survey Highlights

  • For the eighteeth year in a row, Americans rank PBS and its member stations the most-trusted institution among a consideration set that includes courts of law, commercial cable and broadcast television, newspapers, streaming services, and others. A vast majority—76%—of respondents said they trust PBS “a great deal” or “somewhat” compared with lower-ranking perceptions of other institutions.
  • Americans rate PBS highly in terms of value for tax dollars. PBS ranks high in terms of taxpayer value, with 69% of respondents calling it a “good” or “excellent” value, falling only behind the country’s military defense (77%) and oversight of food and drug safety (73%). PBS rated higher on this measure than other taxpayer-funded benefits such as Social Security (61%), agriculture subsidies (60%), infrastructure (59%) and environmental protection (52%).
  • 86% agree that PBS stations provide an excellent value to communities. When asked if the funding for public broadcasting was adequate, nearly 90% said funding was either about right or too little.
  • A vast majority view PBS content as generally relevant, and appealing to a diverse viewership.
  • 74% percent believe PBS content appeals to people of different ethnic backgrounds and features a diverse range of people.
  • 71% percent believe PBS is in touch with today’s culture.
  • 70% believe PBS does a good job of representing people of color in its content.
  • 72% of those surveyed trust PBS news and public affairs programming a “great deal” and “somewhat.” When asked which networks they trust most when it comes to news and public affairs programming, respondents ranked PBS #1 (tied with CNN), ahead of the major broadcast and cable news networks.
  • PBS KIDS was ranked the #1 educational media brand for children, compared with a host of other children’s media providers.
  • 61% of those surveyed named PBS KIDS the most educational media brand, substantially outscoring the second-most highly rated kids’ brands, Disney + and Disney Channel, which were considered most educational by 6%, followed by Netflix (5%).
  • 86% of parents agreed that PBS KIDS helps prepare children for success in school, ahead of Disney Jr. (78%), Disney Channel (76%) and Nick Jr. (72%).
  • 85% of parents agreed that PBS KIDS is a trusted and safe source for children to watch television and play digital games and mobile apps. 

Survey Methodology 

This survey was developed by PBS and conducted online within the United States by Marketing & Research Resources, Inc. (M&RR) fielded 25 questions during the window of January 4-13, 2021. The survey was conducted among a sample of 1,035 adults ages 18+, 502 men, 532 women, and one respondent preferred to self-identify. The results are weighted to be nationally representative of the U.S. adult population.