It has become an article of faith that 2008's presidential election aroused intense interest in the news. But you wouldn't guess it from a pair of Gallup surveys that tabulated the numbers of people who go to various media every day to get news. Comparing the current findings (gathered the first week of this month) to those of a December 2006 poll, Gallup found increases for news on the Internet and on cable news networks. The figure was up slightly for national newspapers as well, albeit from a very small base. But no other news media showed a significant gain since 2006, and several had significant declines.
In both polls, local TV news had the highest number of respondents saying they look to it every day. But the figure slid to 51 percent in the new poll from 55 percent in the earlier one. Local newspapers took a similar hit (44 percent then, 40 percent now). The numbers were nearly unchanged for the nightly network news shows (35 percent then, 34 percent now) and for the national morning news/interview shows (28 percent then, 29 percent now). Radio talk shows fell slightly (20 percent then, 18 percent now), as did National Public Radio (19 percent then, 18 percent now). The figure for national newspapers rose (from 7 percent), but remains in single digits (at 9 percent). The significant gains belonged to cable news networks (34 percent then, 40 percent now) and news on the Internet (22 percent then, 31 percent now).
A breakdown of the findings by age groups indicates that old folks are the most avid consumers of news, almost irrespective of media. Sixty-three percent of respondents age 65-plus said they look to local TV news every day, vs. 56 percent of the 50-64-year-olds, 48 percent of the 30-49s and 36 percent of the 18-29s. Fifty-six percent of the 65-plusers take a nightly look at the network nightly news, vs. 42 percent of 50-64s, 26 percent of 30-49s and 18 percent of 18-29s. The numbers aren't wildly different for cable network news, with 65-plusers the most likely to seek news there every day and the 18-29s least likely to do so (59 percent vs. 24 percent). Looking at the numbers for local newspapers, one is struck by how sharply the everyday-readership number falls from the 65-plus cohort (68 percent) to the 50-64 bracket (42 percent). Apparently 20somethings aren't the only ones shunning newsprint these days.
As you'd expect, young folks are more likely than old folks to go to Internet news sources every day. But the number of 18-29-year-olds doing so, 36 percent, isn't all that large. In fact, it lags behind the proportion of 30-49-year-olds who use the Internet for this purpose on a daily basis (42 percent).Twenty-seven percent of the 50-64s and 14 percent of the 65-plusers do so.
The survey also looked at a few once-a-week sources of news, and the trend here confirmed that weekly newsmagazines have big problems. The proportion of respondents saying they look to such magazines every week for news fell from an already lackluster 12 percent in 2006 to 8 percent this year. For that matter, the television newsmagazine shows suffered a dropoff in the number of people saying they watch every week, from 20 percent then to 17 percent now. TV's Sunday-morning news shows bucked the trend, with their every-week audience rising from 19 percent then to 21 percent now.