Cable News Tops as Political Campaign Info Source

February 9, 2012

pew-campaign-news-sources-feb-2012.jpgCable news networks rank as the top source of political campaign information among Americans, with 36% saying they regularly get their political campaign news from this source, ahead of local TV news (32%), network news (26%), the internet (25%), and the local paper (20%), according to [pdf] a survey released in February 2012 by the Pew Research Center. The proportion regularly turning to cable networks has remained virtually unchanged from 2000. During that time period, though, the proportion saying they regularly get campaign news from local TV news has fallen 33%, while network news (-42%) and the local paper (-50%) have also experienced dramatic declines as news sources. In fact, the only news source to experience a measurable increase since 2000 is the internet, which has almost tripled from 9% to 25% of respondents.

Less Youth Get News Online

pew-online-campaign-news-feb-2012.jpgSurprisingly, fewer youth say they are going online for campaign news. Just 29% of 18-29-year-olds regularly learn something about the campaign online, down 31% from a high of 42% in 2008. In fact, while this group was far and away the most likely to get campaign news online in 2008, it now trails the 30-49-year-old demographic (33%). And although 50-64-year-olds are the least likely to regularly turn to the internet for campaign news, the 11% who report doing so is more than double the proportion who did so in 2008 (5%).

Facebook Beats Twitter for Info, But Rarely Used

Data from the report indicates that social networks only play a limited role as campaign information sources. In fact, of all online destinations, websites and applications of print, TV, and radio organizations top the list, regularly used by 20% and sometimes used by 32%. Online-only sources are next, with 36% citing them as a destination.

By comparison, just 20% say they regularly (6%) or sometimes (14%) get campaign information from Facebook, and only 5% say the same about Twitter. Even among users, the numbers are low: just 41% of Twitter users report either regularly or sometimes learning about the campaign from the site, while the proportion of Facebook users saying they at least sometimes learn about the campaign from the social network is even lower, at 36%.

When respondents were asked to name the specific internet sources they turn to for campaign news and information, CNN topped the list, cited by 24% of those who get campaign news online. Yahoo (22%), Google (13%), Fox News (10%), MSN (9%), and MSNBC (8%) were next.

Campaign Ads Have Widest Reach

Although politicians are rapidly expanding their use of social media, with their performance even found correlating with voting intention, traditional sources of outreach appear to have the widest reach, at least among registered voters. Indeed, 72% of registered voters report having seen or heard campaign commercials related to the 2012 presidential campaign, far outweighing the proportion who report having followed a candidate on Twitter or Facebook (6%). Even so, the number of people who track candidates on these networks has doubled from just 3% in 2008.

Other significant ways voters report having been reached by campaigns include through robocalls (25%), emails (16%), and live phone calls (8%). 15% say they have visited a candidate website, and 7% have contributed money to a candidate.

Other Findings:

  • Among age groups, adults aged 65 and older (47%) are most likely to turn to cable news for their campaign information, followed by 50-64-year-olds (39%).
  • Americans 65 and older are also the most likely to turn to local TV (45%) and local daily newspapers (31%).
  • 18-29-year-olds are the most likely to regularly learn something about the campaign from Facebook (11%), late night comedy shows (15%), Twitter (4%), and YouTube videos (5%).

About the Data: The majority of the Pew analysis is based on telephone interviews conducted January 4-8, 2012 among a national sample of 1,507 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia (902 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 605 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 297 who had no landline telephone). The survey was conducted by interviewers at Princeton Data Source under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

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