Despite the growth of internet news, it is clear that TV news outlets, specifically cable news outlets, are central to people’s impressions of the news media, according to data released in September 2011 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. When asked what first comes to mind when they think of news organizations, 63% of US adults said the name of a cable news outlet, with CNN and Fox News by far the most prevalent in people’s minds.
Only about a third (36%) named one of the broadcast networks. Fewer than one in five mentioned local news outlets and only 5% mentioned a national newspaper such as the “New York Times,” “Wall Street Journal” or “USA Today.” And just 3% named a website, either web-only or linked to a traditional news organization, when asked what comes to mind when they think of news organizations.
Americans say they trust the information they get from news organizations more than they trust information they get from other places, including government and business sources. The public is most inclined to believe information from local news organizations: 69% say they trust such information a lot (17%) or some (52%). Almost six in 10 (59%) say the same about national news organizations: 14% say they trust a lot of what they learn from the national media, while 45% say they have some trust in information provided by national news organizations.
Older Americans are notably less likely to trust information from national news media: 47% say they trust information from national news organizations a lot or some; about six-in-ten in all other age groups say the same.
By comparison, Americans are about evenly divided over whether they trust information from the Obama administration: 50% say they trust it a lot or some, while 48% have not much or no trust in administration information. The public also is about evenly split over whether they trust information from their state governments (51% a lot or some, 47% not much or not at all). Fewer trust information from federal government agencies, business corporations or Congress. Just about three-in-ten trust a lot (1%) or some (28%) of what they learn from candidates running for office.
There are no partisan differences in how much people trust national or local news organizations. About six in 10 Republicans (62%), Democrats (60%) and independents (58%) say they trust a lot or some of the information they get from national news organizations. Figures are higher for local media: 75% of Republicans, 68% of Democrats and 69% of independents trust at least some of the information they get from local news outlets.
There continue to be large age differences in the main sources for national news. Among those younger than 30, the internet far surpasses TV as the main source for national and international news (65% compared to 51%). TVis the most frequently named source for older age groups, though the gap is fairly modest among those 30 to 49 (61% television compared to 51% internet).
Those 65 and older are only age group in which more cite newspapers (49%) than the internet (15%) as a main national news source. The internet is cited about as often as newspapers by those 50 to 64 (36% internet, 33% newspapers), and far more often by younger people.
Age differences are less pronounced in the leading sources of local news; majorities across all age groups cite television as their main source. Those younger than 50 are far more likely than older Americans to say they get local news from the internet, though only about quarter (23%) do so.
Across all groups, newspapers are mentioned more often as a source for local than national news. The difference is particularly notable among those younger than 30 – 37% say they rely on newspapers for local news compared with 24% who cite newspapers as a main source for national and international news.
Negative public attitudes toward the press are at record levels in a number of areas, according to other study data. Most significantly, 80% of US adults say the news media is often influenced by powerful people and organizations, while only 15% say it is pretty independent.
About the Data: Some of the analysis in thePew report is based on telephone interviews of US adults 18 and older conducted by Princeton Data Source from June 23-26, 2011, July 21-24, 2011, and August 4-7, 2011.
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