Turns out the biggest factor influencing the outcome of elections isn't the economy -- it's stupidity. And the No. 1. reason for it is the dissolution of professional journalism and the growth of -- how shall I say this -- somewhat less rigorous sources of validated information.
It has been a progression that began with the shift toward digital media, and the fact that anyone could publish a site, a blog, or a social media post, but according to an exhaustive study released this morning by the Pew Research Center, more Americans get their political and/or election news from a website, app or social media than from traditional journalistic media like TV, radio or print.
Even more alarming, the analysis of nine months of national polling on the subject found that Americans with the lowest political knowledge depend the most on social media.
Most alarming of all is the percentage of Americans who reported hearing about conspiracy theories that the COVID-19 pandemic was intentionally planned by powerful people who also depend on social media and/or digital publishing sites and apps as their source of political and/or election news.
"About a quarter of U.S. adults who get most of their news through social media (26%) say they have heard 'a lot' about this conspiracy theory, and about eight-in-ten (81%) have heard at least 'a little' – a higher share than among those who turn to any of the other six platforms for their political news," the Pew report notes.
That's not a great look for local TV, Joe. It does, however, indicate an opportunity for campaigns to use local TV as an educational tool to keep them better informed - and maybe to increase voter turnout along the way.
I, too, was surprised at the relatively poor performance of local station news in this study. Only 44% of those who rely on local station news had at least a year of college education---way below the figures for broadcast TV network news ( 61% ) and cable news ( 59% )as well as social media ( 63% ). Also, those who stated that they relied mainly on local TV news were extremely low in terms of political savvy with only 10% getting high marks in this regard compared to the same low percentage for social media but way below cable news ( 35%) and broadcast network ( 29% ). Makes me wonder if the respondents had a clear understanding of what "local news" referred to.
Below is the link to another informative read from Pew. Regarding conspiracy theories, data presented in this article show differences across major demos, political affiliation and so on. Education level seems to be a critical differentiator.
While I agree with Joe's basic point, drawn from the study findings, I'm not a fan of research of this type. The problem stems from trying to do too much within a narrow time limit imposed by respondents' willingness to stick with an interview. As a result, it's not always clear to the respondent what is meant by "news" and, regarding the various media that were offered for evaluation as news sources, what they are. For example, in the case of "network news"---which I take to mean the broadcast TV networks---- did the question identify the three or four types of news coverage---nightly news, early AM news/talk, primetime newsmags such as "60 Minutes" or the weekend political interviews typified by"Meet The Press", "Face The Nation", etc? Or was the respondent supposed to figure that out? As for local TV, was it clear that all of a typical station's news reports---early AM, noon, early evening, late evening---were included? Or was the respondent expected to consider all of these possibilities when providing answers? As a result of the probable lack of clarity, local TV fared rather poorly ---which may be correct or, possibly, not so correct. Except we wil never know.
You make good points, Joe, but I also think the educational system must be held accountable. Long before folks start choosing news sources, they're well on the way to being "educated..." Shame on us and on the system.