News and information about the contentious 2016 presidential election is permeating the American public, according to a new survey of 3,760 U.S. adults by Pew Research Center. About nine-in-ten U.S. adults (91%) learned about the election in the past week from at least one of 11 types of sources asked about, ranging from television to digital to radio to print.
As a platform, television and the Web – and even radio to a lesser degree – strongly appeal to certain parts of the public, while print sits squarely at the bottom. As many people name late night comedy shows as most helpful as do a print newspaper.
Age, education level and political party account for some of the differences here. Cable television’s overall popularity is pronounced among those who are 65 and older and also among Republicans, while social media is the clear favorite among the youngest age group, 18 to 29-year-olds.
About four-in-ten (43%) of those 65 or older who learned about the election in the past week say cable television news is most helpful, 26 percentage points higher than any other source type and much higher than any other age cohort. In fact, only 12% of 18 to 29-year-olds who learned about the election say that cable news is the most helpful.
Instead, about a third (35%) of 18 to 29-year-olds name a social networking site as their most helpful source type for learning about the presidential election in the past week. This is about twice that of the next nearest type – news websites and apps (18%), another digital stream of information. Social media drops off sharply for older age groups, with 15% of 30 to 49-year-olds, 5% of 50 to 64-year-olds, and just 1% of those 65 years and older saying the same. This is consistent with our previous research, which has shown thatsocial media is the most prominent way that Millennials get political news, more so than any other generation.