Few People Get Political Content From News Sites, Study Finds

Contrary to what pundits believe, few citizens read political news online, judging by a new study, Non-News Websites Expose People to More Political Content Than News Websites: Evidence from Browsing Data in Three Countries.

The researchers found that only 3.4% of online browsing consists of visits to news sites. 

They also determined that people are more likely to run into political content on non-news sites, although they may not be seeking it there. 

“The overwhelming majority of participants' visits were to non-news sites,” the study notes. “Although only 1.6% of those visits related to politics, in absolute terms, citizens encounter politics more frequently outside of news than within news."

The analysis based on a survey of 7,266 individuals in three countries and online behavioral data the same participants, comprising over 106 million visits. 

Of the visits to news sites, 36% in the U.S. were to news about politics, versus 14% in the Netherlands. 



Moreover, out of every 10 visits to specifically political content, 3.4 come from news and 6.6 from non-news sites,” the study reports. “Furthermore, exposure to political content outside news domains had the same – and in some cases stronger – associations with key democratic attitudes and behaviors as news exposure.

The study concludes, “Our findings have key implications. Much of what scholars and observers debate is foreign to the daily lives of a majority of citizens.” 

It continues, “The consumption of news, vastly over-reported in surveys and neatly isolated in most experiments, accounts for a small fraction of people’s online activities. It is the other 96.6% of these activities that carry the potential to introduce people to politics.”

The full study can be accessed here.  


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