Even as online news sources make inroads, voters still rely on local television for their daily news more than any other news source, according to a national survey released on the eve of the Republican National Convention.
More than half of voters — 58 percent — said they watch local television news broadcasts daily, with older Americans far more likely than younger voters to rely on television for their news, according to results from the USC Annenberg-Los Angeles Times Poll on Politics and the Press.
Thirty-nine percent of voters said they read their local newspaper in print or online each day, according to the poll.
Voters were less likely to follow national news sources on a daily basis: 35 percent of voters said they watch the national nightly network news each day and 16 percent said they read a national newspaper like USA Today, the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times daily, either in print or online.
"There's no question that the political news universe is changing — just not quite as quickly as we thought," said Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. "The gap between older voters and the younger smartphone generation is immense. But even in an Internet and social networking world, when it comes to political news and information, local television is still king."
For radio news, voters were more likely to tune into National Public Radio on a daily basis (19 percent) than conservative talk shows like the Rush Limbaugh Show (12 percent).
For political opinions, voters were most likely to first turn to television (55 percent) over online sources (35 percent) or a print newspaper (14 percent).
One in four voters reported getting their news on a daily basis from Facebook – giving the social networking site a larger direct daily reach than most cable news networks.
Comparatively, 19 percent of voters said they get news on a daily basis directly from MSNBC, 21 percent tuned into CNN and 33 percent sought news from Fox News.
Younger voters were most likely to rely on Facebook for their news: More than half of voters aged 18 to 29 said they log onto the website for their daily news and information, the poll showed.
Of those who rely on Facebook for daily news, 58 percent said it was mostly news they had already seen or heard about, and 29 percent said it was new information to them.
"These findings underscore the need for well-trained journalists at every level," says Geoffrey Cowan, USC University Professor and director of USC Annenberg's Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. "For voters, local television and newspapers remain the top source for information. In addition, our questions document the growing use of digital and social media as a source for breaking news and analysis, especially among younger voters."
YOUNGER VOTERS MORE LIKELY TO GET NEWS ON SMARTPHONES
The USC Annenberg-Los Angeles Times Poll on Politics and the Press also showed the way voters consume news has much to do with their age.
Older voters were much more likely to rely on television for their news: 70 percent of voters over 49 years old said they got most of their news from TV, compared to just 50 percent of 18-to-49 year olds.
But younger voters were more likely to pick up a tablet or smartphone to get their news: 20 percent of 18-to-49 year olds said they get most of their news on these mobile devices, compared to just 3 percent of voters over 49 years old.
Younger voters, aged 18 to 49, were also three times more likely to use Facebook as a daily news source and twice as likely to use blogs or news aggregators than voters over 49 years old.
Latinos were the most likely of any racial group to get most of their news on a smartphone or tablet (21 percent), compared to 16 percent of blacks and 10 percent of whites who get their news the same way.
A LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS?
A plurality of voters polled believes the news media skews liberal, although this belief was largely split along party lines.
Republicans were more concentrated in the belief that news operates with ideological bias, the poll showed.
Forty percent of voters said the media is too liberal, 29 percent said it was ideologically balanced and 13 percent thought the news media skewed conservative.
Among Republicans, 70 percent said the media is too liberal, while just 20 percent of Democrats thought the media was too conservative.
Forty-seven percent of Republicans and 50 percent of conservatives watch Fox News on a daily basis, while just 30 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of liberals watch MSNBC daily, the poll showed.
"Republicans and conservatives are coalesced around watching Fox News much more than Democrats and liberals watch MSNBC," said David Kanevsky, research director of American Viewpoint, a Republican polling firm.
Forty-four percent of Democrats described the media as ideologically balanced, compared to just 16 percent of Republicans.
"Democratic voters are more trusting of the vast majority of news media sources than are Republicans," said Drew Lieberman, vice president at Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. "As a result, they tend to consume more news, and so the more media you consume, the more likely you are to vote for President Obama."
LOCAL NEWS MOST TRUSTED
Despite those findings, 64 percent of voters agreed with the statement that "the news media provides me with useful and important information," compared to 29 percent who thought the news media provided irrelevant and unimportant information.
Voters overwhelmingly said they look for news and headlines that don't have a particular point of view (52 percent), and just 19 percent said they look for sources that share their political point of view.
Younger voters were far more trusting of news sources than were older voters. Voters ages 18 to 49 gave higher scores to nearly every news medium – except for Fox News and conservative talk radio – than voters older than 49 years old.
Local TV news also came out on top as the most trustworthy source of news, earning the highest ranking from voters among the various mediums.
On a scale of 0 (no trust) to 10 (completely trust), voters gave local TV news a mean score of 6.6.
Local newspapers earned a mean score of 6.2, and national newspapers like USA Today, the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times earned a 6.0 mean score.
Democrats gave higher scores to nearly every news source – except for Fox News and conservative talk radio – than did Republicans. Democrats and Republicans agreed on Facebook, with both voter groups giving the website a mean score of 3.
The poll surveyed 1,009 registered voters nationwide from August 13-19 with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.
The USC Annenberg-Los Angeles Times Poll on Politics and the Press is a project of the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The poll was conducted on behalf of USC and the Los Angeles Times by Republican polling firm American Viewpoint and Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.