Commentary

Clinton, Trump Voters Had Very Different News Consumption Habits in 2016

It should be no surprise that Clinton and Trump voters in 2016 had little overlap in terms of what outlets they relied on for news about the election. How can a splintered public address key issues -- or a nation govern -- if it can't agree on what constitutes truth?

In yet another illustration of the widening ideological chasm in our national politics, Pew Research found that 40% of Trump voters identified Fox News as their main source of election news. In contrast, only 3% of Clinton voters designated Fox News.

Clinton voters were much more varied in their news choices than Trump voters.

CNN came up on top among those voters, but was chosen by only 18%. MSNBC was second with 9%. NPR, ABC, The New York Times and CBS were all named by between 5% and 9% of her voters. CNN was named by only 8% of Trump voters.

Trump voters had eight different news outlets that more than 3% of respondents said was their main source of election news, including Breitbart and The Drudge Report. Clinton voters, proving a bit more intellectually curious about different viewpoints, had 11 outlets on the list released by Pew, including The Huffington Post.

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Within the Democratic party, variations between Clinton primary voters and non-Clinton primary voters point to an interesting dichotomy regarding election news consumption. Clinton primary voters were much more likely than those who did not vote for her to get their news on TV (56% to 37%).

In contrast, and not unexpectedly, Democrats who did not vote her in the primary relied heavily on digital outlets to educate themselves on the election, with 48% of them selecting digital outlets as their main source.

A curious but wholly expected news source that both Clinton and Trump voters relied on was Facebook. Among Clinton voters, 8% pointed to the social-media behemoth as their go-to news source about the 2016 election, whereas it was 7% among Trump voters.
While Facebook chooses not to see itself as a news outlet, for many who use the site, it fills that exact role.

Fake news found a home on Facebook during the 2016 campaign, with weak editorial oversight (an issue the company is trying to fix) and algorithms that can promote completely false stories. That made it harder to establish credibility or truth during the election.

News consumption is changing rapidly, and the line between fact and fiction is quickly blurring. The larger implications of ongoing fake news has alarmed legislators and historians; they worry about its impact on policies designed to protect the public.

4 comments about "Clinton, Trump Voters Had Very Different News Consumption Habits in 2016".
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  1. Neil Mahoney from Mahoney/Marketing, January 19, 2017 at 2:30 p.m.

    I don't agree that Trump voters were less interested in gathering information re the election.  The Loony Left have many more loony choices than we Trump voters do.

  2. Michael Strassman from WGBH replied, January 19, 2017 at 2:48 p.m.

    Number one, you're being disingenuous, because there is a plethora of right-wing conspiracy sites out there for you and your bretheren to choose from. So, if supporters of either candidate have dozens (hundreds?) of sources to consult and one group uses more, the logical conclusion is that that group uses more information. And, yes, CNN and the New York Times, with their sizable staffs of actual reporters and researchers doing due diligence are certainly 'loony' compared to Breitbart, Fox, and other sources the frequently rely on rumor, hearsay, and outright fabricated stories as news. Quibble all you want with mainstream media being out of touch with the concerns and motivations of average Americans, but the unpleasant truth is that, for the most part, non-mainstream media has a tiny fraction of its resources devoted to actually compiling and analyzing factual, vettable information. You and your like are taking the opinions of shouting heads as fact.

  3. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, January 19, 2017 at 6:37 p.m.


    Facebook has never been a "news source."  While it may be a conduit for exchanging information from other news sources, or providing links to those sources, it does not have a news-gathering staff of any kind. 

    By the same token, locations such as Breitbart are 100% commentary, and not news.  And Drudge is a link site, that only very rarely produces actual original commentary, unless you count their juggled headlines, that again only very rarely match the articles they link to.

    Until we are all very clear about what actual news sources are, and what they are not, we only add to the confusion. 

  4. Christina Ricucci from Millenia 3 Communications, January 19, 2017 at 10:14 p.m.

    It’s pitiful how many people believe that if they see it on Facebook, it’s legitimate news. Actually it's sad how many believe that if they see it ANYWHERE on the internet—People, Yahoo, US, and worse—it’s news they can trust. 

    We’re decades removed from the days when voting was a serious business, when people used available resources and put time and effort into making a decision. I doubt the number of news sources used impacts voters. I think to some degree it’s educated vs. uneducated, curious vs. uninterested, voting because the candidate stands for what you believe vs. voting because it’s what your color/ethnicity/family/religion dictates. 

    I can’t help wondering where the voting process would be if the internet disappeared and we went back to paper news—which my mom and my father-in-law, both 90 this year and in two different top 10 markets, still read every morning—and TV news, where my mom rotates networks to get differing viewpoints. And both of them still have the stuff to be well informed about the candidates, their platform and experience, and make an informed and defensible decision.

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