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US adults who get their news from social media are a bit thick

by on31 July 2020

You probably were not expecting this

According to a report from Pew Research, US adults who get their news mainly from social media platforms tend to follow the news less carefully and are less informed on vital subjects.

Fortunately, only one in five Americans get their news from social media sources. That’s close to the percentages of those who say they use local TV (16 percent) or cable TV (16 percent) news, but fewer than those who say they go directly to a news website or app (25 percent). Another 13 percent said they use network TV and only three percent said they read a newspaper.

Among “primarily” social media news consumers, only eight per cent said they were following the critical news story of the 2020 US election “very closely”, compared with 37 percent of cable TV viewers who said the same, or the 33 percent of print users who also said this.

The social media group, on this topic, was closer to the local TV group (11 percent). On the issue of the coronavirus outbreak, only around a quarter (23 percent) of the primary social media news consumers said they were following news of COVID-19 “very closely”.

All other groups again reported a higher percentage, including those who primarily used cable TV (50 percent), national network TV (50 percent), news websites and apps (44 percent), and local TV (32 percent) for news.

The survey quizzed respondents about news items, including those on Trump’s impeachment, the COVID-19 outbreak, and others.

Those who scored the lowest on these topics were the consumers who said they primarily used social media to get their news.

Across nine questions on basic political knowledge, only 17 percent of social media news consumers scored “high political knowledge”, meaning they got eight to nine of the questions right.

More than 27 percent scored “middle political knowledge” (six to seven right) and 57 percent scored “low political knowledge” (five or fewer right.) The only group that did worse were those who primarily relied on local TV. Forty-five per ent of who got their news from news primarily via websites and apps, meanwhile, had “high political knowledge,” compared with 42 percent for radio, 41 percent for print, 35 percent for cable TV, and 29 percent for network TV.

The social media group of news consumers was also more exposed to fringe conspiracies, like the idea that the pandemic was intentionally planned.


Last modified on 31 July 2020
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