Americans feel they are better-informed than ever, and devote more attention to getting news, according to a new aurvey by Rasmussen Reports. But that's cold comfort for traditional media like print newspapers and radio, since it mostly reflects the rapid growth of Internet news, including a fair number of Web sites maintained by publishers and broadcasters.
Overall, 67% of Rasmussen's survey respondents said they considered themselves better-informed now than they were a decade ago, thanks largely to the easy availability of constantly updated news and information online. That compares with 8% who feel they are less informed than 10 years ago, and 22% who think there has been no change.
The researcher surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults about their news consumption habits via phone on September 15-16.
In terms of news sources, 44% said the Internet is the best news medium, compared to 36% for TV and just 11% for print newspapers. Radio trailed at a distant 9%. However, the Rasmussen respondents also expressed distrust of information they find online, with just 29% rating the Internet a "reliable" source of news, compared to 40% for broadcast news and 21% for newspapers.
These apparent contradictions suggest that news consumers draw a distinction between availability and ease of access on the one hand, and credibility on the other. While these two qualities are not mutually exclusive, they aren't necessarily correlated either. Consumers may be wary of Internet reporting in particular, because of its popular image as a "rush-to-publish" medium, which encourages publishers to sacrifice accuracy for speed.
Still, the Rasmussen data -- which indicates that most Americans feel better-informed than before -- jibes with another recent study from the Pew Center for the People & the Press. Pew found that Americans are spending more time consuming news than in previous years, perhaps reflecting interest and uncertainty about continuing economic woes.
The Pew study also reported a similar breakdown in news sources, with 44% saying they get news online (including email, social networks, and podcasts) or via mobile devices every day. That compares with 39% who regularly watch cable TV news. Overall, the proportion of daily print newspaper readers decreased from 38% in 2006 to 30% in 2008, before slipping to 26% this year. That represents a 32% drop in the size of the newspaper-reading population in just four years.
On a positive note,the proportion of survey respondents who said they read a newspaper online every day jumped from 9% in 2006 to 13% in 2008 and 17% in 2010.