Where Did They Hear That?

According to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press’ 2012 campaign news survey, fewer Americans are closely following news about the presidential campaign than four years ago. As a consequence, long-term declines in the number of people getting campaign news from such sources as local TV and network news have steepened, and even the number gathering campaign news online, which had nearly tripled between 2000 and 2008, has leveled off in 2012.

The one constant over the course of the past four elections, says the report, is the reach of cable news. Currently, 36% of Americans say they are regularly learning about the candidates or campaign on cable news networks. That is virtually unchanged from previous campaigns, yet cable news is now the top regular source for campaign news.

Campaign News Sources

 

% of Consumers Who Regularly Get Campaign News From:

Source

2000

2004

2008

2012

Cable news

34%

38%

38%

36%

Local TV news

48

43

40

32

Network news

45

35

32

26

Internet

9

13

24

25

Local paper

49

31

31

20

Source: Pew Research Center, January 4-8, 2012

The cable networks also hosted most of the candidate debates, which stand out as a particularly interesting aspect of the campaign. 47% of Republicans have watched a GOP debate during this campaign, up from 32% at a comparable point four years ago. In contrast to cable, broad declines in the numbers getting campaign news from newspapers, and local and network TV news.

Just 20% say they regularly learn something about the presidential campaign or candidates from their local daily newspapers. In 2008, 31% said they got campaign news from their daily newspaper and 40% did so in the 2000 election cycle. There are comparable declines in the share regularly getting campaign information from network evening news programs and local TV news. For all three of these sources, the rate of decline slowed during the dramatic 2008 election cycle, but has again continued on a downward track.

In previous campaigns, declining figures for traditional sources were at least partly offset by increasing numbers turning to the internet. But in 2012, the number regularly getting campaign news online has leveled off. This is largely due to a lack of interest in the early 2012 campaign among younger Americans, who have traditionally been the broadest internet news consumers, and who also are less apt to be Republicans, says the report.

Campaign News Online (By Age Group; January 2012)

 

% Learning about candidates and campaign online

Age Group

2000

2004

2008

2012

18-29

13%

20%

42%

29%

30-49

10

16

26

33

50-64

7

11

20

21

65+

5

3

5

11

Source: Pew Research Center, January 4-8, 2012

As campaign interest among young people has declined, fewer say they are going online for campaign news. Just 29% of those younger than 30 regularly learn something about the campaign online, down from 42% four years ago. Early in the 2008 campaign, people under age 30 were twice as likely as people 30 and older to get campaign information online. There is far less of an age gap today.

Many of the newest Internet tools for getting campaign information, including social networking, are being used by a relatively limited audience. 20% of Americans say they regularly or sometimes get campaign information from Facebook and just 5% say the same about Twitter. Even among Facebook and Twitter users, most say they hardly ever or never learn about the campaign or candidates through those sources.

52% of Americans say they at least sometimes learn about the campaign from websites or apps of TV, newspaper, magazine or radio news organizations. 36% regularly or sometimes learn from websites or apps of news sources that are only available online.

When asked to name the specific internet sources respondents turn to for campaign news and information, the most frequently cited of those who get campaign news online are:

  • CNN (24%)
  • Yahoo (22%)
  • Google (13%)
  • Fox News (10%)
  • MSN (9%)
  • MSNBC (8%)

The survey finds that the number saying there is a great deal of political bias in the news has risen to a new high, with the most intense criticism coming from Tea Party Republicans. Currently, 37% of Americans say there is a great deal of bias in news coverage and 30% say there is a fair amount of bias. Far fewer see not too much bias (21%) or none at all (10%). The percentage saying there is a great deal of bias has increased six points, from 31% to 37%, since 2008.

Consumers See Bias in The News

 

Percent Perceiving News Biased

Affiliation

1989

2000

2004

2008

2012

Republicans

25%

40%

37%

43%

49%

Total public

25

32

30

31

37

Democrats

24

27

24

25

32

Source: Pew Research Center, January 4-8, 2012

About three-quarters (74%) of Republicans who agree with the Tea Party movement say there is a great deal of bias – at least twice the percentage as in any other political group, including non-Tea Party Republicans (33%) and liberal Democrats (36%).

Among news audiences, those who cite the Fox News Channel or the radio as their main source of campaign news are the most likely to say there is a great deal of bias in news coverage.

While new technology allows campaigns and groups multiple ways to reach out to voters, campaign commercials have by far the widest reach. Fully 72% of registered voters nationwide report having seen or heard campaign commercials related to the 2012 presidential campaign.

How Campaigns and Candidates Are Reaching Voters (Registered voters)

Medium

% of Respondents

Seen or heard commercials

72%

Robocalls

25

Printed mail

21

Email

16

Candidate website

15

Live phone call

8

Contributed money to candidate

7

Followed candidate on Twitter/Facebook

6

Source: Pew Research Center, January 4-8, 2012

While small, the number of people who track candidates on social networking has grown. At this point in the 2008 campaign, just 3% said they had signed up as a “friend” of a candidate on a social networking site.

For the complete report and additional information from PEW, please visit here.

 

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1 comment about "Where Did They Hear That?".
  1. Doug McMonagle from Inergize Digital Media , February 29, 2012 at 11:38 a.m.
    The question I have is when the Tea Party members say the cable news channels are biased do they mean the ones they watch or all of them. If you watch FOX NEWS vs CNN or any of the others there has to be a moment when you say the other channels are not reporting what FOX is saying. Do they believe the others are biased or do they see that FOX is biased?