New research from the Pew Center for the People & the Press shows fewer Americans are closely following the 2012 election than in 2008, with significant drops in the percent of people — especially older adults — who get that campaign news from local newspapers, local TV news and national network news. Cable remains a constant source of election news for about 36 percent of people, while the Internet has remained an important source for about 25 percent.
The plateauing of the Internet numbers masks a shift across demographic groups. There’s a 13 percent drop in 18-29-year-olds who are going online for election news compared to 2008, while the percentage of adults age 65 and older getting campaign information online more than doubled between 2008 and 2012, from 5 percent to 11 percent. That shift can be explained at least in part, says Pew Research Center Associate Director Carroll Doherty, by the fact that Millennials are “the most Democratic generation, so it’s probably not that surprising that they wouldn’t be as tuned in to this Republican race” as they were to the contest in 2008.
Unfortunately for local TV news and local newspapers, across all demographic groups there are substantial declines in use of those mediums for campaign news. Overall, local TV news dropped 8 percent as a source of campaign information for people, but the steepest drop (14 percent) was among adults ages 50-64. Local newspapers were down 11 percent overall as a source of campaign news compared to 2008, but again there was a significant decline — 13 percent — among 50-64-year-olds. This data suggests that traditional media use may be eroding even among the most loyal age groups.
The sites people visit for campaign news
There is an interesting shift between 2008 and 2012 in where people get their campaign news online. Survey participants were asked by phone, “On the Internet, what are some of the sources you turn to for campaign news and information online?” Their open-ended responses showed CNN taking a strong lead in 2012 with MSN/MSNBC dropping.
|News source||% 2012||% 2008|
|MSN and MSNBC||17||26*|
|Google /Google News||13||9|
|New York Times||5||6|
|Other newspapers/Newspapers in general/Local news/local newspapers||5||6|
|Candidate/campaign websites and emails||2||2|
|ISP home pages||2||3|
|Wall Street Journal||1||-|
|Real Clear Politics||1||-|
|None/Haven’t gotten campaign information online||3||12|
|*In 2007, data for mentions of MSN, MSNBC and NBC News were combined into one total; in 2012, they were counted separately and NBC News was not mentioned. If there’s no data listed, that means fewer than 1 percent of respondents named it.
Facebook and Twitter were not named in 2008, but that year 2 percent of respondents said they got their election news from MySpace.
This data, which is self-reported, does not align with comScore’s behavioral data. That September data shows Huffington Post as the most-visited site for political news, followed by CNN, which topped Pew’s list, and Politico, which barely made the Pew list. It’s possible that behavior changed between October and January, but more likely the difference is a self-reporting effect. What people say they do is not always aligned with their actual behavior, a fact broadcast journalists experience in Nielsen markets that shift from ratings based on self-reported diaries (where stations with longstanding reputations and familiar names do especially well) to meters, which measure actual behavior. (See related: Why HuffPost is top of traffic charts for politics news, but not top of mind)
Perception of media bias grows
One more interesting takeaway from the data: While there are partisan gaps in perceptions of media bias, the growing disillusionment crosses party lines. Thirty-seven percent of Americans believe there is “a great deal” of political bias in news coverage. And the perception that news is inaccurate — which Doherty said by phone always showed a consistent party gap — “has really narrowed and almost disappeared” because Democrats are more likely now to see stories as inaccurate than they were before.