The Internet as a Source of Political News and Information

Long gone are the times when political information was confined to some network news channels and major national newspapers or magazines. Today, newspapers and network TV compete with 24-hour cable channels and a number of online news services—from online efforts by traditional publishers to user-generated content on blogs, personal webpages, social networking sites, et al.. Political news junkies can customize their news using RSS feeds or news aggregators, get updates on the topics they’re specifically curious about at any time of day and in multiple formats, then contribute their own thoughts to the discussion on their personal blog or Twitter feed.

These changes inspire a bunch of questions. during a world of dispersed media, where are politically engaged citizens going for or her news? How do alternative outlets like blogs fit into the media environment? How are mobile devices used for gathering political information, particularly with relevance to the consumption of traditional media content? And as voters move down the long tail of media content, are they ready to more narrowly concentrate on content that matches their existing political philosophy?

We address these and other issues within the section that follows.

The proportion of USA citizens logging on for election-related news and data has over doubled since the top of the 2000 race. Six in ten internet users went online in 2008 for campaign news, up from 52% at an identical point in 2004 and 33% in 2000. Moreover, because the entire population of internet users has also grown over that point, the size of the web political news consumer audience has grown from 18% of all adults in 2000 to 44% of all adults today. Young adults and people with relatively high levels of income and education are generally more inclined to travel online for political and election-related news, largely because these groups are presumably to travel online in the first place.

Television remains the foremost common source of election news, as 77% of USA citizens address election-related television programming for his or their campaign information (respondents were allowed to supply up to 2 sources of campaign news when answering this question). Since November 2000, the proportion of USA citizens counting on the net as a serious source of election news has quite doubled (from 11% to 26%) while the proportion counting on newspapers has fallen from 39% to twenty-eight today.

The influence of the web on news consumption habits is particularly apparent when watching internet users normally and people with a home broadband connection specifically.6 Within the broadband population, the net is far and away from the second-most important source of campaign news, behind only television and well sooner than newspapers, radio, and magazines.

One-third (34%) of all adults during this age cohort cite the web as a significant source of campaign news, compared with only 1 in five who use newspapers. Similarly, while 83% of 50-64-year-olds and 89% of those 65 and older get most of their election news from television, this falls to 74% for 30-49-year-olds and just 67% for those under the age of 30. Within the 77% of the population that gets much of its campaign news from television, the foremost common sources of programming remained stable between 2004 and 2008. As in 2004 CNN, Fox News, and native news programming are the three primary sources that political news viewers communicate for election coverage.

 

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