Twenty years ago, only 12% of U.S. adults got news online. Today, that number stands at 81%. About six-in-ten (62%) get news through social media – a figure that rises to 84% for 18- to 29-year-olds. We have also reached a point where a large majority of the public (72%) gets news on a mobile device. As consumers have changed the ways they access news, they also have new ways to interact with it – and new sources to inform them. How have these influences shaped the American public’s habits and attitudes toward the news?
A new Pew Research Center study explores the defining traits of the modern news consumer. One overarching conclusion is that news remains an important part of public life. More than seven-in-ten U.S. adults follow national and local news somewhat or very closely, and 65% follow international news with the same regularity.
A clear challenge for the news media is the deeply rooted sense of bias the public perceives in their reporting. Even as three-quarters of the public gives credit to news organizations for holding our leaders accountable, about the same share (74%) feels the news media favor one side in their reporting. That far outpaces the portion of online news consumers who sense this about online news they get from friends and family: In that case, just about a third (35%) describe it as mostly one-sided, while 31% say it represents more than one side. Another third say they don’t get news from friends and family.
Television still commands the largest portion of the population – 57% get news there often compared with 38% who often get news online. Newspapers lag far behind at 20%. What lies behind these numbers speaks to the relationship between the web and print media. U.S. adults who prefer to watch their news still choose to do so on television, while those who prefer to read their news have mostly migrated to the web. The vast majority of U.S. adults (80%) who prefer to watch their news name TV as their preferred platform. On the other hand, most (59%) of those who prefer to read their news opt to do so on the web, while just 26% opt for printed paper. Even those who prefer to listen to news are still largely opting for the radio.