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Where Do People Get Their News? [+10 Other Questions About News Consumption]

The US media landscape is oversaturated with all types of media outlets — from the traditional (newspapers, radio, and TV) to the modern (news websites, apps, and social media platforms).

With so much choice out there, where do people get their news? Does a person’s preference for a specific news source depend on their political affiliation? Is television still relevant in 2021?

Here you’ll find the answers to these and other questions about modern-day media consumption.

Where Do Americans Get Their News?

Americans of all ages keep up with current affairs and are very particular about their preferred news sources. Let’s examine the US news consumers’ habits and see where they get their news, which platforms they use most often, and what role — if any — their political affiliation plays.

1. Where Do Most People Get Their News?

(Pew Research Center)

The rise of the internet as a news source has changed the way people get information.

According to a 2020 survey, 52% of American adults prefer getting their news on digital platforms — be it an app, a website, a social media platform, or even a podcast.

This doesn’t mean traditional media outlets aren’t influential anymore.

More than one-third of Americans (35%) still get their news from television, 7% listen to the radio for updates, while another 5% read print publications to learn about the latest events.

2. Where Do Most Americans Get Their Political News?

(Pew Research Center)

Regarding major political events, television is by far the leading news source in the US.

A 2020 study found an impressive 45% of Americans still watch TV to stay updated on the political news. Cable and local news broadcasts are the most popular, attracting 16% of US adults each, while another 13% prefer watching the news on network television.

Other commonly used information sources include news apps and websites (25%) and social media (18%). Another 8% of Americans get their political updates from the radio, and 3% read newspapers for political news and commentary.

3. How Do People Get Their News?

(Pew Research Center)

The most common way that Americans get their news is from digital platforms.

Recent research reveals that a staggering 86% of Americans use their smartphones, tablets, and computers to catch up on the latest news. While 26% only do it sometimes, the remaining 60% say they do it regularly.

Watching television is the second most popular way of getting the news — 40% of Americans say they watch it often and another 28% occasionally. Radio ranks third, with 50% of US adults listening to it either regularly (16%) or from time to time (34%). Finally, print media is fourth, with 10% of Americans reading it often and another 22% doing so occasionally.

4. Where Do Millennials Get Their News?

(Statista)

Younger Americans are most likely to get their news from online sources.

Most millennials (57%) say they get their daily news updates from social media. The radio is also surprisingly popular among millennials, with 28% listening to the news every day.

Just under half of US millennials regularly watch television news — 25% opt for major networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), while 21% prefer watching cable news broadcasts.

Further news consumption statistics from 2020 show that 24% of millennials search for news on online-only outlets, 10% also read newspapers, and 8% listen to podcasts for news.

5. What Percentage of Adults Read the News Online?

(Pew Research Center)

As mentioned, 52% of Americans prefer getting their news from digital sources.

A more in-depth look into their habits reveals that the majority (69%) reads news on specialized apps and websites — 34% do so often and 35% from time to time. Many (65%) also use search engines like Google to see if there’s any news on the topics that interest them.

Statistics show that 53% of US adults use social media as a news source. While 23% say they do this regularly, the remaining 30% say they only do it occasionally. News podcasts are also growing in popularity, with 6% of Americans listening often and another 10% sometimes.

6. How Many People Get Their News from Social Media?

(Pew Research Center)

More than half of US adults (53%) say they regularly or periodically get their news from social media. Social platforms rank among the main news sources for most Americans; only 21% say they’ve never relied on social media to stay informed.

Interestingly, even though they read the news on social media, not all Americans believe in its accuracy. According to a 2020 survey, only 39% of people who read updates on social apps believe the information they get is accurate. However, the large majority (59%) finds that most of the news they read is largely inaccurate or entirely fabricated — so-called “fake news.”

7. How Many People Get Their News from Facebook?

(Pew Research Center)

Facebook is the undisputed leader among social media news sources.

Online news consumption statistics show that 36% of all US adults get the latest updates from this platform. Facebook news consumers are predominantly women (63%) aged 30–49 (41%).

Looking at the racial breakdown, an overwhelming 60% of people who get their news from Facebook are white, compared to a combined 40% of people of all other races. In terms of education, all groups are evenly distributed — 39% have a high school degree or less, 32% are college graduates, and 29% are studying for or have already obtained a master’s degree or higher.

8. Where Do Republicans Get Their News?

(Pew Research Center)

Like all Americans, Republicans prefer getting their news from television.

As for the most popular news sources among the Republican Party supporters, Fox News is in the lead, with 60% citing it as their go-to source of information. Major networks are in a distant second — 30% of Republicans watch ABC News, 28% NBC News, and 26% CBS News.

Despite the channel being perceived as democratic-leaning, 24% of Republicans say they watch CNN. Sean Hannity’s syndicated daily radio show is also very influential, with 19% of people identifying as Republicans saying they regularly listen to it.

9. Where Do Democrats Get Their News?

(Pew Research Center)

Most Democrats get the latest updates from traditional news sources.

With 55% of Democrats watching the channel regularly, CNN leads the list of their preferred news sources. Similar to Republicans, major-network news broadcasts are also very popular. NBC News leads with 40%, followed closely by ABC News (37%) and CBS News (33%).

One notable difference between Democrats and Republicans is that the former read newspapers in much larger numbers. Namely, 31% say they read The New York Times, 26% get their news from The Washington Post, while 15% regularly read The Wall Street Journal.

Where Do People Get Their News - Watching TV

10. What Percentage of Americans Watch the News?

(Pew Research Center, Variety)

With the global pandemic raging and the presidential election approaching, most Americans turned to television when looking for unbiased news sources in 2020. Almost half of all Americans (45%) still watch television news, and in 2020, this was more evident than ever.

The growing trust in TV news reflected on the ratings. All cable news networks saw massive viewership increases in 2020 — CNN was up 83%, Fox News 43%, and MSNBC 23% year-over-year. Major networks were also up, with rating increases of 42% from 2019.

In late March and early April 2020, more than 31 million people watched one of the network TV news broadcasts (ABC, CBS, and NBC) — 10 million more viewers than the previous year.

11. What Is America’s Main Media Source?

(Pew Research Center)

Despite TV’s renewed popularity, the modern news consumer prefers digital news sources.

More than half of Americans (52%) used digital platforms to get their news in 2020, and it’s not surprising. With so many important events throughout the year, digital sources could provide the latest information and updates in real-time, something “old” media still struggled to achieve.

Final Thoughts

US news consumption has changed drastically over the last few decades, with many people turning to digital news sources. But this doesn’t mean traditional media is dead — 2020 was a record-breaking year for TV news, with almost half of Americans tuning in for the latest updates.

We will soon see if TV can maintain these viewership trends or if the gains were just temporary.

Sources: