TV-informed Canadians less likely to vote

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TORONTO -- Canadians who depend on TV for their news are less likely to vote, compared with those who consume varied news sources, especially online.

That's the conclusion of a social trends study on new-media consumption by Canadians released Tuesday by Statistics Canada, the federal statistics agency.

"Frequent followers of the news participate in more political activities," the Statscan study found.

At the same time, which media sources Canadians follow depends on access. The research indicates that virtually all Canadians get at least some of their news and current affairs from watching TV. But whether they get more of their news from alternative sources, especially new-media platforms, depends on region and language.

"Canadians living in rural areas and those who speak French most often find access at home more difficult than other frequent news consumers," the study said.

In addition to TV, Canadians are more apt to get their news from newspaper and radio, while 42% of Canadians ages 19-24 report that they tend to follow the news via the Internet.

The study also found that new immigrants to Canada are more likely to go online for news from their former homelands, especially when it is presented in their mother tongue.

"The Internet can provide news about other areas of the world in a more in-depth manner than might be possible with the more conventional sources of print and broadcast news," the study said.

But when access to varied media was blocked, Statscan researchers found, Canadians turned to TV news as their default source. What's more, "those frequent users who chose only television tended to participate in fewer nonvoting political activities," the study concluded.

Statscan noted that its own research supports earlier U.S. studies pointing to lower rates of political participation among those using TV as their only source of news.

"... Relying only on television results in a pattern of political activity that closely mirrors those who do not follow news at all," the study found. "Those who follow news frequently in a variety of media sources seem more likely to be politically engaged Canadians."
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