September 12, 2010

Americans Spending More Time Following the News

Section 3: News Attitudes and Habits

Most Americans say they enjoy keeping up with the news, but the proportion saying they enjoy following the news a lot has declined. Currently 45% say they enjoy following the news a lot, while 36% say they enjoy this a little and 18% say not much or not at all. In each of the past three news consumption surveys (2004, 2006 and 2008), 52% said they enjoyed following the news a lot.

The falloff in the number saying they enjoy the news a lot has come across many groups, but the declines have been particularly large among Democrats – particularly liberal Democrats – young people and those with no more than a high school education.

The percentage of liberal Democrats who say they enjoy keeping up with the news a lot has fallen 22 points, from 67% in 2008 to 45% currently. The decline is 12 points among conservative and moderate Democrats (58% to 46%). By contrast, opinions among Republicans and independents have shown little change.

Those younger than 30 have consistently been less likely to say they enjoy keeping up with the news than have older age groups. The falloff since 2008 is also larger for young people than for other age groups. About a quarter of those ages 18 to 29 (27%) now say they enjoy keeping up with the news a lot, down 12 points from 39% in 2008.

The percentage of those with a high school diploma or less who say they enjoy keeping up with the news a lot dropped from 49% in 2008 to 39%; there has also been a slight decline among those with some college experience (from 51% to 45%). The views of college graduates are largely unchanged (59% in 2008, 55% today).

Fewer Getting News at Regular Times

With the availability of the internet and 24-hour news channels, nearly six-in-ten Americans (57%) say they are the kind of people who check in on the news from time to time, as opposed to getting the news at regular times. That is up from 51% in 2008 and 48% in 2006.

The percentage saying they are more likely to get their news at regular times has dropped from 50% in 2006 to 45% in 2008 to 38% today.

Young people have long been more likely than older Americans to say they check in on the news rather than getting news on a regular schedule. That remains the case today, but “news grazing” has become much more common among older age groups.

Among those 50 to 64, about as many say they get news from time to time (49%) as at regular times (46%). Just two years ago, a majority (55%) of this age group said they got news at regular times. Those 65 and older are still most likely to get their news at regular times (57%), but that is down from 64% in 2008. The percentage that says they get news from time to time rose from 31% to 37%.

Among those ages 30 to 49, 63% say they are more likely to get news from time to time than at regular times (32%). Two years ago, the divide was more narrow (57% from time to time, 41% at regular times). A substantial majority of those younger than 30 continue to say they get news more from time to time (74% now, 70% in 2008).

People with no more than a high school education also are now more likely to get news from time to time. Among this group, the percentage that says they get news from time to time increased from 49% in 2008 to 58%, while the number saying they get their news at regular times dropped from 47% to 36%. Majorities among both those with some college experience (59%) and those with a college degree (54%) say they seek out news from time to time. That also was the case in 2008.

Most See Some News Sources as More Trustworthy

Most Americans say they trust certain news sources more than others. Currently, 57% express this view, up slightly from 53% in 2008. About four-in-ten (39%) say they see all the news media as “pretty much the same.” That is down slightly from 43% in 2008 and 45% in 2006.

About three-quarters of conservative Republicans (76%) and 69% of liberal Democrats say they trust a few news sources more than others. Smaller majorities of other political groups express this view.

While there has been little change among Democratic groups on this question since 2008, an increasing number of conservative Republicans say they trust a few sources more than others; 76% express that view currently, compared with 65% in 2008.

Those with a college degree or more education are more likely than those with less education to say they trust certain sources more than others. Three-quarters (75%) of those with at least a college degree say they trust certain sources more, up from 69% in 2008. About six-in-ten (59%) of those with some college experience say this, as do 43% of those with a high school diploma or less education. Those numbers are little changed from 2008.

More Prefer News with No Point of View to their Point of View

About six-in-ten (62%) say they prefer getting political news from sources that do not have a particular point of view. A quarter (25%) says they prefer getting news from sources that share their political point of view. That is down slightly from 2008 when 66% said they preferred getting news from sources that do not have a specific point of view.

About four-in-ten conservative Republicans (41%) say they prefer to get news from sources that share their political point of view – the highest percentage of any political group. That compares with a third of liberal Democrats (33%) and only about one-in-five conservative and moderate Democrats (22%), moderate and liberal Republicans (20%), and independents (19%).

Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) of those with a college education or more say they prefer political news with no point of view, compared with just more than half (53%) of those with a high school diploma or less education. In terms of income, 70% of those with family incomes of $75,000 or more say they prefer news with no point of view; 54% of those with family incomes of $30,000 or less agree.

Majority Sees Bias in News Coverage

About eight-in-ten Americans (82%) say they see at least some bias in news coverage – 52% say they see a lot and 30% say they see some. By a wide margin, those who see bias in news coverage say it is a liberal bias; 43% of the public says there is more of a liberal bias while just 23% see more of a conservative bias.

Republicans, especially conservative Republicans, are more likely than other political groups to say they see a lot of press bias. More than six-in-ten Republicans (62%) say this, compared with 47% of Democrats and 53% of independents. About seven-in-ten Republicans (69%) say that bias tilts liberal. Among conservative Republicans, 72% see a lot of bias in news coverage and 79% say that bias tilts liberal.

Nearly half of Democrats (47%) say they see a lot of bias in coverage, while another 33% see some. Slightly more Democrats say they see a conservative bias (36%) than a liberal bias (28%).

But by nearly two-to-one (41% to 22%), more liberal Democrats see a conservative bias in news coverage than a liberal bias.

Independents largely mirror the public as a whole: 53% see a lot of bias and 30% see some. Fully 44% say that bias tilts liberal, while 21% say it tilts conservative.

Fewer of those with a high school degree or less say they see at least some bias than those with some college experience or a college degree or more education. About four-in-ten (39%) of those with a high school degree or less education say they see a lot of bias, compared with 58% of those with some college experience and 64% of those with a college degree or more education.

About half of those with at least a college degree (51%) say the bias tilts liberal, compared with 35% of those with no more than a high school education. Among those with some college experience, 48% perceive a liberal tilt.

Tracking the News for Work

More than a third of those employed full or part-time say that keeping up with the news is important to their jobs. That number has changed little in recent years, fluctuating from 35% in 2006 to 30% in 2008 and then up to 36% this year.

And, as in past surveys, those with at least a college degree are much more likely than those with less education to say it is important for their jobs to keep up with the news. Fully half of those with a college degree or more education say this, compared with 28% each of those with some college experience or a high school diploma or less education.

Those with annual family incomes of $75,000 or more are also more likely than those with smaller incomes to say keeping up with the news is important to their jobs. Nearly half (47%) of those earning at least $75,000 say this, compared with 21% of those earning less than $30,000 and 35% of those earning between $30,000 and $74,999.

Not surprisingly, those who say that keeping up with the news is important to their jobs are more avid news consumers. A majority (56%) of those who say the news is important for their job enjoy keeping up a lot, compared with 37% of those who say keeping up with the news is not important to their jobs.

And those who say keeping up with the news is important to their jobs are much more likely to go on-line from work. About seven-in-ten (69%) say they regularly go online from work, while just 38% of those who say it is not important to their jobs to keep up with the news say this.

Looking at all full and part-time workers, about half say they regularly go online at work (49%), while half say they do not.

Again, those with more education and higher family incomes are more likely go online regularly from their jobs. Fully 70% of those with a college degree or more education say they go online regularly at work. That compares with 46% of those with some college education and 30% of those with a high school education or less.

Similarly, two-thirds (67%) of those with family incomes of $75,000 or more say they regularly go online at work. That drops to 45% of those earning between $30,000 and $74,999 and 27% of those with incomes of less than $30,000.

Little Change in Book Reading

Though the public’s preferences for how they get news may be changing, the percentages that say they read a book in the past day have remained largely steady in recent years. Just more than a third of the public (35%) says they read a book yesterday. That is little changed from 38% in 2006 – the last time the question was asked – and matches the number that said they read a book yesterday in 2004.

Almost all of those who say they read a book in the past day say they read a printed book (95%). Despite the growing popularity of electronic book readers, just 4% say they read an electronic or digital book yesterday. Another 4% say they listened to an audio book.

Those who say they read a book yesterday are equally likely to say they read fiction as non-fiction: 16% of the public say they read fiction and 16% say non-fiction.

While young people are less likely than older Americans to get news on a typical day, there are no significant age differences in book reading. Fully 36% of those ages 18-29 say they read a book “yesterday,” compared with 33% of those 30-49, 36% of those 50-64 and 35% of those 65 and older.

Just about all of the book reading recorded in the survey – among all age groups – was of printed books. Just 2% of those ages 18-29 say they read an electronic book the previous day, compared with 6% of those ages 30-49, 5% of those ages 50-64 and 1% of those 65 and older.

Though still small, the percentages of the better educated and more affluent that say they read an electronic book yesterday are larger than for those with less education and lower incomes. For example, 7% of those with a college degree or more say they read an electronic book yesterday, compared with 2% for those with some college experience or no more than a high school diploma. Among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more, 7% say they read an electronic book yesterday, compared with 3% of those earning less than $75,000.

Magazine Readership Still Declining

While the trend for book reading shows little change, the percentage saying they read a magazine in the past day continues to decline. Currently, 19% say they read a magazine yesterday, down slightly from 23% in 2008. In 1994, 33% said they had read a magazine in the past day.

Those with at least a college degree (28%) are more likely than those with some college experience (19%) or a high school education or less (14%) to say they read a magazine in the previous day. Similarly, more people with family incomes of $75,000 or more (25%) say they read a magazine yesterday than those with incomes of between $30,000 and $74,999 (18%) and incomes of less than $30,000 (15%).