Thanks to all of you who responded to our recent survey on credibility and trustworthiness regarding our food and the food system that produces it. You spoke up loud and clear, with firm points of view and some insightful comments.
Since we began Dirt to Dinner years ago, you have made it very clear how important it is to have timely, accurate, and believable information about food. But to be of value to you, our information must be credible. You want us to meet your standards and expectations. We must work constantly to make sure we understand what enables our posts and other information to do that. That’s what our survey wanted to explore.
Here is a recap of the top-line findings from our survey – and some of the comments you made about this important subject.
Our survey focused on a few simple questions:
- What are your major sources of information about food and our food system?
- How do you rank those sources for credibility and trustworthiness?
- What are the major factors you use in assessing credibility and trustworthiness?
We will take a look at your responses below. But first, let’s take a step back and set the stage with a few general observations about the big messages within all the numbers.
First, who you know counts most.
You told us that your greatest sense of credibility and trust comes from people you know best or people and organizations that you already know.
People matter more than institutions, like businesses or big or distant organizations. The closer the personal relationship to the source of information, the greater the trust and credibility. First-hand information from actual people is valued far more than indirect, impersonal pronouncements from faceless institutions.
Second, credentials matter.
When it comes to understanding our food – especially things like health and nutrition – professional standing means a great deal. You trust scientists, educators, doctors, and healthcare professionals. Close behind, you once again value the opinion of people close to you, notably family and friends.
None of that is a big surprise…but the gap between the credibility and trustworthiness of those groups compared with other sources of information was significant. We’ll look into that below.
Next, the facts…
Science and objectivity that so often come with credentials are paramount.
Credentialed people are seen to be driven by reason rather than emotion. Facts count, and impartial analysis of those facts is critical to presenting informed judgments. Fairness and impartiality are cornerstones of trust. And once again, people close to you – friends and family again – are known well enough to provide a greater degree of trust than strangers.
…and the farmers.
You trust the people who actually produce the food far more than most others along the chain from dirt to dinner.
When it comes to food, farmers are in elite company. You indicated an innate willingness to trust people at the front lines of providing us with the food we need. Farmers and ranchers rank competitively with scientists, healthcare professionals, and educators as preferred sources of information. People who have actually lived within the world of agriculture matter more to you than those who haven’t.
And some things that just jumped out at us:
- The more distant and impersonal the source of information, the lower the level of credibility and trustworthiness. Businesses and business leaders, advertisers, industry and special interest groups, and to a certain extent government institutions, fared relatively poorly in your assessment of their credibility and trustworthiness as an information source.
- Search engines, social media and podcasts seem to be important, but not yet as important as other valued sources of information. Most source categories in our survey generated strong opinion one way or another about their importance in shaping credibility and trust. But search engines and social media showed a remarkable balance between being “extremely important” or “not at all important.”
- For all the criticism heaped upon our modern media, you indicated that national and local media remain an important source of information for you. Cable television sources, however, fared very poorly in our survey for credibility and trustworthiness. Once again, it appears that sources who do the best job of establishing some form of quasi-personal or ‘family-like’ connection with viewers fare better than loud, argumentative, and clearly opinionated talking heads.
We tested the same issues with a slightly different focus to assess the consistency of opinion.
- Some of the lowest rankings for trustworthiness on food-related matters include ads, media personalities, social media influencers, and government officials:
- Some of the lowest rankings for credibility on food-related matters include celebrities and influencers, corporations, and environmental groups.
Compare the low-ranked sources of information with those ranking highest in trust in the above chart: scientists/researchers (77% trust), friends & family (71%), and doctors/healthcare professionals (68%).
…and credibility in the information reported from educational institutions (73% credible) and farm/trade organizations (74%).
Many of you also had your own personal comments to make about the survey and what’s important to you about your information sources when it comes to food. Here is just a sampling of what you had to say:
Bringing it back to D2D
Thank you once again for helping us with our continuous efforts to make Dirt-to-Dinner better and better. Your opinions are some of the most helpful guides we have to identify the kinds of posts you value, the sources we rely upon and the standards we set for the content we produce. With your help, we’ll make our site the most credible and trusted source of information about food and our food system available anywhere. To view charts derived from the survey data, please click here.
Have a wonderful 4th of July!
– The Dirt to Dinner Team