Patterico's Pontifications

8/17/2008

Pew: How Americans Get Their News

Filed under: Media Bias,Politics — DRJ @ 3:49 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

The Pew Research Center released a new study taken from April-June 2008 that analyzes where people get their news. The study classifies American news consumers into four groups:

Traditionalists (46%) who get news from regular TV newscasts.

Net-Newsers (13%) who get news primarily from online sources and avoid traditional news sources.

Integrators (23%) who get news from multiple sources.

Disengaged (14%) who have a low interest in news from any source.

The complete study is worth a quick read but what was most interesting to me were the “Other Key Findings:”

• In spite of the increasing variety of ways to get the news, the proportion of young people getting no news on a typical day has increased substantially over the past decade. About a third of those younger than 25 (34%) say they get no news on a typical day, up from 25% in 1998.

• A slim majority of Americans (51%) now say they check in on the news from time to time during the day, rather than get the news at regular times. This marks the first time since the question was first asked in 2002 that most Americans consider themselves “news grazers.”

Social networking sites are very popular with young people, but they have not become a major source of news. Just 10% of those with social networking profiles say they regularly get news from these sites.

• As in past news consumption surveys, the audiences for specific cable news outlets remain divided along political lines. Currently 51% of regular CNN viewers are Democrats, up from 45% two years ago. Nearly four-in-ten regular Fox News viewers are Republicans (39%), about the same as in 2006.

Here are the details from the study:

Fox News Channel 39% Republican; 33% Democratic; 22% Independent; 6% Don’t Know

Nightly network news 22% Republican; 45% Democratic; 26% Independent; 7% Don’t Know

MSNBC 18% Republican; 45% Democratic; 27% Independent; 10% Don’t Know

CNN 18% Republican; 51% Democratic; 23% Independent; 8% Don’t Know

PBS NewsHour 21% Republican; 46% Democratic; 23% Independent; 10% Don’t Know

General public 25% Republican; 36% Democratic; 29% Independent; 10% Don’t Know

• Regular readers of magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Harper’s Magazine stand out for their high level of political knowledge. Nearly half (47%) answered three political knowledge questions correctly – the highest percentage of any news audience.

The 3 political knowledge questions were:

Which Party currently controls Congress? The Democratic Party.
Who is the US Secretary of State? Condoleezza Rice.
Who is the Prime Minister of Britain? Gordon Brown.

• Overall, 15% of Americans say they have a smart phone, such as an iPhone or a Blackberry. More than a third of smart phone owners (37%) say they get news from these devices.

Believability ratings for national news organizations remain very low. If anything, believability ratings for major online news outlets – including news aggregators such as Google News and AOL News – are lower than for major print, cable and broadcast outlets.

• Though the audience for nightly network news broadcasts are smaller than they were a decade ago, regular viewers of these broadcasts are loyal. Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) say they would miss these broadcasts a lot if they were no longer available.

The study found certain groups pay particularly close attention to national news, including the regular audiences of Hardball with Chris Matthews, Hannity & Colmes, Lou Dobbs Tonight, and The O’Reilly Factor, as well as (page 39):

“Beyond the cable shows, other audiences that pay particularly close attention to national news include readers of magazines such as The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine and The New Yorker; Rush Limbaugh listeners, NPR listeners, and those who regularly watch the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer or the network Sunday morning news programs.”

Finally, people in every segment are interested in the weather (page 41), so we have that going for us.

— DRJ

11 Responses to “Pew: How Americans Get Their News”

  1. Get that Caddy Shack reference in.

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  2. If you want more info on the information habits of the young, you could read this book.

    Mike K (155601)

  3. Mike K – It would be good to read that book but I don’t think I’d like what it says.

    daley – Absolutely. Most people here like Princess Bride references but my family is more the Monty Python/Bill Murray/Adam Sandler-type.

    DRJ (a5243f)

  4. There is some vigorous criticism of the book on Amazon but it follows up on Allan Bloom’s “Closing of the American Mind” from 1987. Not all kids follow the pattern but it is a pattern.

    Mike K (155601)

  5. • Social networking sites are very popular with young people, but they have not become a major source of news. Just 10% of those with social networking profiles say they regularly get news from these sites.

    This is interesting. I guess they still get their news from the Daily Show. During the last election an increasing number of young people became politically informed through the satire of news on Jon Stewart’s show. Stewart himself was surprised by this,

    “The people at “The Daily Show” ridicule the idea of people looking to their show as a primary news source.

    “A lot of them are probably high,” Stewart cracked.

    Dana (254946)

  6. Going with the theme of where Americans get their news, one must consider what sort of real news is provided. There is an insightful observation made by the Deborah Howell, ombudsman of the WaPo, re the media favoritism shown toward Obama vs. McCain. She provides a surprising (but not really) comparison of stories/photos and breakdowns of stories re Obama and headliners. Of course he leads over McCain.

    Although she is the ombudsman for the WaPo and provides unarguable data, her colleagues do not agree:

    “Bill Hamilton, assistant managing editor for politics, thinks that I’m wrong to put weight on numbers. “We make our own decisions about what we consider newsworthy. We are not garment workers measuring our product every day to fulfill somebody’s quota. That means as editors we decide what we think is important, because that’s what our readers look for us to do — not to adhere to some arbitrary standard.

    “The nomination of the first African American presidential nominee after a bitter primary campaign and his efforts to unite a party afterward were simply more newsworthy than a candidate whose nomination was already assured and who spent much of that time raising money. In the end, we can and should be judged on the fairness of our coverage, but that is a judgment that must be made over the course of the whole campaign, not a single period of time.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/15/AR2008081503100.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

    This muddled rationalizing by Bill Hamilton, which we’ve also seen from Tony Pierce, is what leads to the statistics provided by Pew and why the specialty shops (O’Reilly, Rush, NPR) end up with a with loyal following.

    Dana (254946)

  7. • Regular readers of magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Harper’s Magazine stand out for their high level of political knowledge. Nearly half (47%) answered three political knowledge questions correctly – the highest percentage of any news audience.

    Oh, that’s just sad. Less than half could answer the three easy questions correctly and they’re the cream of the news consuming crop? Something tells me there’s an audience or two that they didn’t find.

    Pablo (99243e)

  8. Most people couldn’t answer that Gordon Brown was the British PM, and why should they know that? We’re Americans!

    DRJ (a5243f)

  9. Mike K,

    To clarify, I didn’t mean I doubt the book. I read the reviews and I understand there is a disparity of opinion on Bauerlein’s thesis. But given what I’ve read about this subject in the past, it discourages me to say I’m all-too-willing to believe his thesis is at least partially true.

    DRJ (a5243f)

  10. “…the proportion of young people getting no news on a typical day has increased substantially over the past decade.”…(from the article).

    Election day will have come and gone by the time the youth vote gets to the polls.

    C. Norris (41173e)

  11. In the “old days” Mom and/or Dad put on the news at 6:00pm every night and watched it. That has changed dramatically. Kids can’t watch news if Mom/Dad don’t put in on first. On the other hand, cable is great for quickie checks throughout the day.

    In addition, every single outlet listed had almost double the Democratic concentration than the Republican ones…even there Demos were larger segment…so, in whose definition is “divided along political lines” when all have higher percentages of lefties?

    I am very glad that the audience has begun to realize that media outlets don’t tell the truth 100% of the time..and the majority skew their shows exactly in that manner. An exception if Fox where Colmes can’t outright lie and get away with it!

    Sue (4d3ef7)


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