…and our senior citizens are in the mix!

Internet Gains on Television as Public’s Main News Source

The internet is slowly closing in on television as Americans’ main source of national and international news. Currently, 41% say they get most of their news about national and international news from the internet, which is little changed over the past two years but up 17 points since 2007. Television remains the most widely used source for national and international news – 66% of Americans say it is their main source of news – but that is down from 74% three years ago and 82% as recently as 2002.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 1-5, 2010 among 1,500 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, finds that more people continue to cite the internet than newspapers as their main source of news, reflecting both the growth of the internet, and the gradual decline in newspaper readership (from 34% in 2007 to 31% now). The proportion citing radio as their main source of national and international news has remained relatively stable in recent years; currently, 16% say it is their main source.

An analysis of how different generations are getting their news suggests that these trends are likely to continue. In 2010, for the first time, the internet has surpassed television as the main source of national and international news for people younger than 30. Since 2007, the number of 18 to 29 year olds citing the internet as their main source has nearly doubled, from 34% to 65%. Over this period, the number of young people citing television as their main news source has dropped from 68% to 52%.

Among those 30 to 49, the internet is on track to equal, or perhaps surpass, television as the main source of national and international news within the next few years. Currently, 48% say the internet is their main source – up 16 points from 2007 – and 63% cite television – down eight points.

The internet also has grown as a news source for people ages 50 to 64; currently 34% say the internet is their main source of national and international news, nearly equal to the number who cite newspapers (38%), though still far below television (71%). There has been relatively little change in the how people age 65 and older get their news. The internet has risen to 14% from 5% in 2007, but is still far behind newspapers (47%) and television (79%) as a main source.

The decline in the share of Americans who cite television as their main source of national and international news crosses all age groups. Over the past three years, the number saying TV is their main source has fallen 16 points among 18-29 year-olds, eight points among those 30 to 49, and six points among those age 50 and older.

TV News Still Dominates Among Less Educated

College graduates are about as likely to get most of their national and international news from the internet (51%) as television (54%). Those with some college are just as likely as college grads to cite the internet as their main source (51%), while 63% cite television. By contrast, just 29% of those with no more than a high school education cite the internet while more than twice as many (75%) cite television.

Similarly, those with household incomes of $75,000 or more are about as likely to get most of their news on the internet (54%) as from television (57%). People with household incomes under $30,000 are far more likely to cite television (72%) than the internet (34%).

There also are different patterns of news consumption across regions of the country. Notably, people living in the West are the most likely to cite the internet as their main source of national and international news (47% vs. 40% in other parts of the country), and the least likely to cite television (55% vs. 68% elsewhere).

Both Cable News and Broadcast News See Declines

Reflecting the slow decline in the proportion of people getting most of their national and international news from television, the numbers specifically citing cable news outlets or broadcast networks as their main news source has fallen. When asked where on television they get most of their news, 36% name a cable network such as CNN, the Fox News Channel or MSNBC; 22% name ABC News, CBS News or NBC News; and 16% say they get most of their national and international news from local news programming.

Compared with five years ago, the share citing a cable network as their main source is down seven points (from 43% to 36%), and the share citing a broadcast network is down eight points (from 30% to 22%). The local news figure has remained relatively constant over this period.

About the Survey

The analysis in this report is based on telephone interviews conducted December 1-5, 2010 among a national sample of 1,500 adults 18 years of age or older living in the continental United States (1,000 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 500 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 201 who had no landline telephone). Interviewing was conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Both the landline and cell phone samples were provided by Survey Sampling International. Interviews were conducted in English. For detailed information about our survey methodology, see:  http://people-press.org/methodology/

The combined landline and cell phone sample are weighted using an iterative technique that matches gender, age, education, race/ethnicity, region, and population density to parameters from the March 2009 Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The sample also is weighted to match current patterns of telephone status and relative usage of landline and cell phones (for those with both), based on extrapolations from the 2009 National Health Interview Survey. The weighting procedure also accounts for the fact that respondents with both landline and cell phones have a greater probability of being included in the combined sample and adjusts for household size within the landline sample. Sampling errors and statistical tests of significance take into account the effect of weighting. The following table shows the error attributable to sampling that would be expected at the 95% level of confidence for different groups in the survey:

For the full report and charts, please go to:http://people-press.org/report/689/
In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

About the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press is an independent opinion research group that studies attitudes toward the press, politics and public policy issues. We are sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts and are one of seven projects that make up the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

The Center’s purpose is to serve as a forum for ideas on the media and public policy through public opinion research. In this role it serves as an important information resource for political leaders, journalists, scholars, and public interest organizations. All of our current survey results are made available free of charge.

All of the Center’s research and reports are collaborative products based on the input and analysis of the entire Center staff consisting of:

Andrew Kohut, Director
Scott Keeter, Director of Survey Research
Carroll Doherty and Michael Dimock, Associate Directors
Michael Remez, Senior Writer
Leah Christian and Jocelyn Kiley, Senior Researchers
Robert Suls, Shawn Neidorf, and Alec Tyson, Research Associates
Jacob Poushter, Research Analyst
Danielle Gewurz, Research Assistant

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