Vast Majority of Americans Get News From TV Sources (Study)


But most prefer local outlets to cable channels, according to a new survey.

The vast majority of Americans (93 percent) get their news from a TV broadcast or station website, according to a new study. Beyond that, most people get their news from their local TV stations (82 percent), with 73 percent checking out network news and 62 percent turning to cable news channels. Newspaper content in various forms and radio-based reporting sources rank as sources for 66 and 56 percent of Americans.

Those are just some of the findings of a new survey about the devices, technologies and sources by which Americans get their news, and how trustworthy people find them to be. The survey was conducted by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

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In general, 88 percent of people say they get their news directly from a news organization, whether it's a TV newscast, website, newspaper or newswire. The second most popular way of getting the news: word-of-mouth, which accounts for how 65 percent of people find out what's going on, beating more modern, online or digital ways of sharing like via email, text or social media (44 percent to 46 percent). Roughly half of Americans say they got news in the last week from search engines and online news aggregators.

Slightly less than half of all Americans (47 percent) say they used online-only sources like Yahoo! News, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, or blogs. Magazines were used by 37 percent of Americans as a source of news, with a third of Americans saying they get their news from wire services like the AP or Reuters.

Which source people turn to depends on the topic (i.e., sports, politics, weather, arts) and the nature of the news (i.e., breaking news, a slow-moving trend or a specific issue someone's interested in).  

In terms of breaking news, a TV news organization of some sort (cable, local and broadcast news) is the most common source for first hearing about a breaking story, with 61 percent of Americans saying that's where they found out about the news. For slower-moving news stories, people turn to a diverse group of sources, including newspapers and specialty media.

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People are also more likely to use specialized sources to learn about sports, entertainment, science, technology and lifestyle news, but they turn to local TV for weather, traffic, crime and health news. People are more likely to turn to newspaper outlets for updates on their local town or city and news about arts and education. Cable news was most often cited as a source for politics, international news, business and social issues.

The study also explored how much Americans trust the information they get from various sources. Overall, the majority of Americans say they trust the information they get from local TV news, with 52 percent saying they trust that information very much or completely. Although word-of-mouth is the second most popular way of learning about the news, it's tied with social media as one of the least-trusted sources, with 33 percent of those who obtain news by word-of-mouth mistrusting the source.

Meanwhile, 51 percent of those who use newswires trust them, 48 percent trust radio news, 47 percent trust newspapers and broadcast news and 44 percent trust the information they get from cable news.

Less than 40 percent of Americans trust the information learned from magazines, online-only sources and social media.

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In terms of the devices and technologies used to follow the news, Americans on average rely on four different devices.

As one might expect given the popularity of various sources, the most frequently used devices include television (87 percent), laptops/computers (69 percent), radio (65 percent) and print newspapers or magazines (61 percent).

Beyond that, 56 percent of Americans said they used a cellphone, 40 percent said they used social media and 29 percent said they used a tablet to get their the news in the past week. Only 11 percent of Americans said they used a Smart TV to follow the news over the past week, with just 10 percent saying they turned to an e-reader to follow current events.

The study also asked people about which news outlets they pay to subscribe to, with only 26 percent currently paying for one or more news subscriptions. Among paying subscribers, 64 percent say they subscribe to a newspaper, 44 percent to a print magazine, 40 percent to a newspaper's website, 23 percent to a magazine website, 16 percent for a tablet app and 15 percent for a paid phone app.

The study found that there are few differences among people of different ages, political parties or socioeconomic status in the level of interest with which they follow different topics. The national survey of 1,492 adults was conducted by phone from Jan. 9 to Feb. 16 this year. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 3.6 percent.