How Political Views Of College Students Influence Their Media Consumption

About 40% of college students are age 25 or older, and some are returning to advance their career or to re-train for new opportunities. Some 26% of those whose most common platform for political and election news is social media have a four-year college degree -- about on par with those who turn to network and cable TV for news.

The only platform with a lower percentage of college graduates is local television at 14% -- a far bigger share among those who look to print at 49%, news websites at 47% or radio at 44% have college degrees, according to Pew Research Center. But how does this behavior influence their media consumption, political views and buying habits?

The findings from Pew Research Center are pretty much on par with data released Monday from the Knight Foundation, which surveyed 4,000 full-time students currently enrolled in four-year degree programs between August 9 and August 12, 2020.

The college students were asked about the 2020 election, and the findings provide insight into their views on the election. Students were surveyed via the College Pulse mobile app and web portal.

The poll found that 71% of the college students said they are “absolutely certain” they will vote. The 81% of students who identify as Democrats are the most likely to be absolutely certain they will vote, followed by 74% of Republicans and 63% of Independents.

However, students lack confidence in the legitimacy of the 2020 election. Some 49% said the election will not be fair and open, while 55% believe that it will not be administered well, and 81% believe special interest groups have more influence over election outcomes than voters.

Biden is favored over Trump among college students who were polled in this survey, but few expressed enthusiasm. About 51% view have negative views about Biden as a candidate. The majority, at 70%, said they will vote for Biden compared with 18% for Trump.

The college students surveyed also favor mail-in voting, especially Democratic students -- but they say they will have major doubts about the legitimacy of the election if there are long lines, mail discrepancies and delays in tallying the votes. Some 63% of Democrats said they will vote by mail, compared with 31% of Republican students.

COVID-19 at 33% is the most serious issue facing America, according to the college students surveyed, followed by Race Relations at 22%, Climate Change at 12%, Inequity at 7%, Economy at 7%, White House Leadership at 6%, Healthcare at 5%, and Education at 2%.

This group’s political views are interesting, but Inside Performance wanted to know how their thoughts relate to new media consumption and whether or not it influences their views? A report from Gallup and Knight Foundation released earlier in August touches on this topic. The findings suggest a widening gap between what Americana, overall, expect from the news media compared to what they get.

Not surprisingly, college graduates at 76% are more likely than those with a high school education or less, at 57%, to see bias in the reporting of “objective” news as a major factor.

Some 74% of college graduate, compared with 56% who do not have one, are also more likely to say bias in news organizations’ selection of what stories they cover and the degree to which news sources report from a particular point of view are major problems.

Most students say discerning fact from fiction in news media is difficult. Fox News is one of the most popular news sources among the general public, but is far less popular among students, according to the report.

Only 4% of students report that Fox News is their main source of news, trailing other prominent news organizations including CNN and MSNBC, The New York Times and the Washington Post. Some 26% of students report getting their news from social media.

Despite their use of media, more than half of college mistrust national media. Some 61% of students believe that media bias is such a problem that it makes it difficult to sort out the facts, and 39% say while media bias does exist, there are enough news sources to sort out the facts.

Patterns of media trust among college students mirror those among the larger public, according to the report.

Republican students express far more distrust of news media than Democrats. Some 86% of Republican students say the amount of bias in the news makes it difficult to discern factual information, and 45% of Democratic students agree. A majority of Democratic students say despite some bias there are enough news sources to make it possible to identify factual information.


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