'Daily Show,' Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Rivaling Mainstream Sources Of Campaign News

If Theodore White wrote his landmark “The Making of The President” in 2012, instead of 1960 (or its sequels in 1964, 1968, and 1972) it would not be the major broadcast TV networks or big national newspapers that were the most influential sources of media in shaping the views of voters, but cable news channels, local TV stations, and increasingly, the Internet. Less than two weeks before Election Day, the Pew Research Center released findings of a new study indicating that the Web, not surprisingly, has emerged as the fastest growing source of campaign news for most Americans, and is closing in on cable and local TV outlets.

“Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are growing especially rapidly as a source of political news,” reads the Pew report, noting, “The number of Americans who say they regularly go to these destinations to learn about the campaign has doubled since January. Even with that jump, however, these leading social media platforms are still turned to by a relatively limited number of Americans, about 17% in all, when those who mentioned at least one of those platforms are combined.

Asked which sources of campaign news have been “most useful” to them, nearly half of Americans nonetheless cited some form of television. That said, the study dispels the conventional wisdom that TV, especially partisan cable news programming, wield supreme influence in voter’s decisions. Instead, Pew found that “no platform dominates as the place for politics, and the vast majority of Americans say they regularly rely on multiple platforms to get political information.”

Amid this diverse, diffused and highly fragmented political news media landscape, entertainment programs such as Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and “The Tonight Show” are a surprisingly vital source for some voters: 12% said they “regularly get” their political news from comedy shows, up from 9% when Pew began surveying American voters at the beginning of the year. That’s TV comedy shows on part with public radio and national newspapers as a vital source for campaign news, proving that, if nothing else, Americans still have their sense of humor.

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