Where Voters Go for News | Adweek Where Voters Go for News | Adweek
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Where Voters Go for News

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WASHINGTON This may alarm people who prefer their news served without an opinion: More people agree that Bill O'Reilly is a better source of political information than ABC News, according to a JWT survey conducted on behalf of Adweek.

And while election 2008 has started earlier than ever with news outlets closely following every twist and turn, it seems to be too early for people to tune in, at least on the Web.

Those are just two of the findings from the random online survey of 1,118 Americans 18 years and older conducted during the week ending June 3, which examined which media people turn to for their political news. Ann Mack, director of trendspotting at JWT, provided the analysis of the survey results.

Despite candidates placing great emphasis on their Internet strategies so far, with several top contenders even announcing their intention to run on their Web sites, there's a lack of interest in visiting a candidate's Web site. When respondents were asked if they visited a U.S. presidential candidate's Web site in the last six months, 85 percent said no.

And for all of the popularity of YouTube, 84 percent of respondents said they don't find videos posted there by candidates to be credible. When people do log on to the Internet for political intelligence, they are more likely to watch a news segment than a debate or a speech.

It makes sense, then, that the survey also finds television retaining much of its power when it comes to political news. Most people, for instance, prefer to watch political debates on TV rather than the Internet. And despite ongoing media fragmentation, TV remains people's primary source for political information. Cable dominates thanks to the popularity and perceived credibility of CNN, which is trailed closely behind by Fox News and MSNBC; network TV comes in second.

Print media doesn't have the same hold. The Web is slightly preferred over print as a go-to source. Mirroring offline habits, most people visit CNN's Web site, followed by Fox News and MSNBC.

Will more voters log on to candidate Web sites as the campaign season progresses? Stay tuned for our next political survey by the end of September.

TV Is Tops

Despite ongoing media fragmentation, TV remains people's primary source for political information: Cable dominates thanks to the popularity and perceived credibility of CNN; trailing closely behind are Fox News and MSNBC; and network TV comes in second, likely due to lower credibility ratings. Also, the Web is slightly preferred over print as a go-to source. Mirroring offline habits, most people visit CNN's Web site online, followed by Fox News and MSNBC, with the major networks close behind.

'Time' and 'Newsweek'

Time and Newsweek, not surprisingly, tie for the most-read weekly news magazines, with the former edging out the latter for online readership. U.S. News & World Report lands third on both counts. As for newspapers, USA Today, with its easy-to-read, generalist approach, attracts the highest amount of readers, while The New York Times falls a far second both online and offline. Interestingly, there's no significant difference between the number of people reading these pubs in print or on the Web. Barely registering on the survey: Human Events (1% print, 1% Web site); National Journal, New Republic and The American Conservative (1%, 2%); The Nation (2%, 2%); and The Week and The Weekly Standard (3%, 3%). Newspapers with low scores: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Boston Globe, The Detroit Free Press, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune and The Philadelphia Inquirer (2%, 2%); and The Dallas Morning News and The Onion (2%, 3%).

Stewart, O'Reilly

Nearly the same percentages of people agree and disagree that Jon Stewart is a better source of political information than ABC News. Thirty-six percent agree that Bill O'Reilly is a better source than ABC News, while 26% disagree. The number of people who believe Stewart is a better source decreases as the age range increases: 18-24, 33%; 25-34, 27%; 35-44, 26%; 45-54, 25%; 55+, 16%. The reverse is nearly true of O'Reilly: 18-24, 23%; 25-34, 33%; 35-44, 39%; 45-54, 40%; 55+, 39%. By party affiliation: A whopping 55% of Republicans think O'Reilly is a better source than ABC News versus 23% of Democrats; 20% of Republicans say the same of Stewart compared to 28% of Democrats.

Best on the Net

The front-runners score high: Most people think Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Giuliani, McCain and Romney (in that order) will use the Web to his/her greatest advantage in terms of garnering votes and donations. Considering that 85% of respondents haven't visited any of the contenders' sites, media coverage of the candidates and their coffers is probably playing into this perceived Internet savvy.

Buffering

"Buffering" is so 2004! The technological advances of the past few years have allowed for a relatively seamless, enjoyable video viewing experience on the Web. But are people ready to watch the 2008 election unfold online? Thus far, one-fifth of people have viewed video related to the campaign on the Web, most of them tuning into news segments, followed by a candidate's speech and declaration to run. And while nearly three-quarters of people would prefer to watch a debate on TV rather than online (19% said they had no preference), 50% said they would be somewhat or very likely to view a debate online if available after that fact.