Faculty advisor: Professor Jocelyn Mitchell Media distrust and importance of different media platforms as sources of news and information has decreased among culturally conservative Qatari nationals, while the opposite has been the case for progressive Qatari nationals from 2015 to 2017. This paper will focus on why self-identification as culturally conservative decreased Qatari nationals' trust in media and the importance they give to specific kinds of media as news sources and why the opposite was the case with culturally progressive Qatari nationals. As a student currently researching the findings from the QNRF NPRP grant, “Media Use in the Middle East” (NPRP 7-1757-5-261), I have chosen to focus on this topic because there is a dearth of in-depth analyses of how and why cultural conservatism and progressivism in the Arab world affects trust in mass media and the importance people associate with different media as news sources. Conducting secondary analysis on data from the 2015 and 2017 edition of the Media Use in the Middle East Survey by Northwestern University in Qatar, I will analyze and contextualize the correlation between cultural identity and trust in media and importance of different media platforms, specifically social media and newspapers as news sources. Specifically, I focus on cultural identity as the independent variable, with two other questions serving as the dependent variables. For the independent variable, I use the question, “Compared to most nationals in this country, how would you describe yourself?” The responses range from culturally very conservative to culturally very progressive, creating a self-assessed scale of cultural conservativism or progressivism. My two dependent variables will be how much importance respondents place on social media and newspapers as news and information sources as well as how much trust and confidence they have in mass media. Specifically, I analyze the question, “For news and information, how important is each of the following to you as a source?” Although the responses include the Internet, TV, radio, magazines, books, interpersonal sources such as communication with friends and family, and news applications, I have chosen to include only social media and newspapers because these two categories are clearly defined and provide a good contrast between forms of new and old media. Second, I analyze the question, “In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the mass media – such as newspapers, TV, and radio – when it comes to reporting the news fully accurately and fairly?” (A great deal of trust, a fair amount of trust, not very much trust, no trust at all, don't know, refused). I have chosen to analyze correlation among the aforementioned variables only among Qatari nationals in order to keep the focus of the research narrow and contextually rich. In my preliminary research, a general trend emerges, whereby the percentage of Qatari progressive nationals who trust mass media to report fully, fairly and accurately and who deem social media and newspapers as important news sources has increased. However, the opposite was the case for conservative Qatari nationals. Crosstabs between cultural identity and the two dependent variables paint a compelling picture (see Figs. 1, 2 and 3). Over the span of two years, from 2015 to 2017, the percentage of culturally progressive Qatari national respondents who identified social media as an important source of news and information increased by nearly 10 percentage points. In 2015, one in ten progressive Qatari nationals said social media was an important source of information. This figure increased to nearly three in ten in 2017. With increasing importance of social media as a source of news and information, Qatari progressives' trust in mass media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly also increased by 11 percentage points over the same time. However, the percentage of Qatari progressive nationals who identified newspapers as an important source of news and information remained the same over the two years. On the other hand, the importance of social media and newspapers as sources of news and information for conservative Qatari national respondents decreased by 12 and 15 percentage points, respectively. Additionally, conservative Qatari national respondents' trust in mass media to report news fully, fairly and accurately decreased by 6 percentage points during the same time. Although these trends are consistent with the findings of a recently conducted Pew Research Center survey about how much trust conservatives and liberals have on news media (Mitchell et al. 2014), the reasons behind why progressives and conservatives in the Arab world could possibly be trusting the mass media more or less deserves further research. According to some existing literature, people tend to avoid sources of news and information that challenge their existing beliefs and values (Friedersdorf 2011). Is there something about the content of social media and newspapers, as well as the media as a whole, that has challenged conservative Qataris' beliefs and values? The story behind these data will become clearer after I complete my next stage of research, which involves interviewing Qatari nationals to provide a more contextual account of the shift in media trust and the association of more or less importance with newspapers and social media as news and information sources. I will also interview political scientists and anthropologists with an interest in the Middle East to get an expert point of view on the possible reasons behind this shift in media trust, and supplement my research with published findings and studies as well.


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