Nov 1, 2008

Where we get our news

The number of Americans turning to the Internet as a preferred source for news on the presidential campaigns is up 23 percent from four years ago - 33 percent in 2008 compared to 10 percent in 2004. The same poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, finds 29 percent of Americans read newspapers for campaigns information, up one percent from 2004 but still below the Internet number.

(Nevertheless, newspaper circulation continues to drop.)

As for the other media, television watching was down - though it continues to dominate as the top source for campaign news - and magazine reading and radio listening were up.

There is one clear weakness in the findings: One of the media sources is not like the others. The Internet is not a form of production but a delivery system. What exactly are people looking at online? A local newspaper? A national magazine? Are they listening to NPR podcasts or dowloading clips from the Daily Show? The footnote has a link that gives us some idea of how news consumers use the Internet, but not enough to disambiguate what proportion of the Internet audience is reading an online newspaper versus some alternative source.

Another interesting finding in the Pew survey is that cable news channels serve a much more partisan audience than other campaign news sources:
Among those who name the Fox News Channel as their main source for campaign news, 52% are Republicans and only 17% are Democrats. By contrast, among those who rely on MSNBC for their campaign news, 50% are Democrats and only 11% are Republicans. Similarly, CNN's campaign news audience is largely Democratic -- 45% are Democrats and 13% are Republicans
A plurality of newspaper readers are self-identified Democrats (41% Dem vs. 22% Rep vs. 34% independent). Fox News is by far the preferred source for Republicans while independents are almost evenly split between all of the news sources.

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