Poll eyes where Garden State residents get news

Not all news is created equal, at least according to where Garden State residents say they get their news and information about state and national issues.

The most recent survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll finds television reigns when it comes to national news sources, but newspapers draw the greatest audience when state and local news is what residents seek.

Also, some news sources are associated with better informed viewers and readers relative to others.

If you’re looking for information about, for example, the president and Congress, you’re likely to find a majority of Garden Staters turning to national TV news (58%) or cable TV news (51%).

However, if the governor and state legislature are the subjects of interest, then newspapers – both print and online – reign (58%), with local TV news a double digit second (48%).

“This is good news for newspapers,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of political science and analyst for PublicMind. “Newspapers have been hit hard in recent years with declining ad revenues and the end of classifieds. The fact that they’re still the most trusted source for local news is a bright spot.”

The online world of news and information garners considerable readers for both state and national news. A third (33%) of New Jersey residents say that they use social media, with 42 percent who turn to online news other than social media and online newspapers “regularly” when seeking national news.

Slightly fewer turn to the same sources for news about more local matters: 31 percent say they use social media and 35 percent turn to online news other than social media and online newspapers “regularly” for information about what’s going on in New Jersey.

Younger New Jersey residents, in the so-called Millennial generation, are especially likely to report getting their news from social media and online sources.

Sixty-one percent of the 18-34 crowd turn to social media for national news, compared with 28 percent of those between the ages of 35 and 59, and only 11 percent of the 60 and older demographic.

Similar differences can be found for online news, other than social media and online newspapers: over half of 18-34 year-olds (53%) use this source regularly, compared with 36 and 39 percent for their older cohorts.

The same is true for locally oriented news. Over half of Millennials (56%) turn to social media, with only 27 percent of those aged 35-59 and 10 percent of those 60 and older.

Smaller differences are present for other online news sources. Forty-one percent of the under 35 crowd turn here, with 34 percent of those 35-59 and 32 percent of 60+ residents using these sources for state and local news.

“People who have grown up on social media don’t seem to see any reason to get news about the world any other way,” said Cassino. “The real question for the media as a whole is if these preferences will change, if millennials will start getting the newspaper as they get older.”

The same survey also finds a relationship between what people know and where they get their news and information. To measure how much they actually know about current events, respondents on the poll were asked a series of five political knowledge items.

These ask about knowledge of figures in the news (including Paul Ryan, Rex Tillerson and Theresa May) and facts about issues and government, like which party has more seats in the House, and the contents of the recent House bill aimed at repealing parts of Obamacare.

On average, New Jersey residents answered 3.4 of these questions correctly, with Democrats and Republicans being about equally accurate, and independents lagging behind, with only about 2.9 questions correct, on average.

Generally, New Jersey residents who regularly get their news from newspapers for both national and state information are the most informed, garnering an average of 3.9 correct answers to the five question political knowledge test.

But, television and cable news isn’t too far behind for both national and state news. Differences across mediums are not statistically significant, however. Regular social media users are, on average, among the least informed. However, it’s again important to note that differences across mediums are smaller than those related to other factors.

“The sort of news that gets shared on social media is more likely to be sensationalistic, or even false than what gets reported in newspapers, or on television,” said Cassino. “So it’s not surprising that reliance on such sources leaves its readers less informed.”

Part of the difference in knowledge levels may be because social media users are different in other ways than consumers of other news sources. Democrats (37%) are more likely to report regularly getting their national news through social media than Republicans (26%), with the biggest difference being between white and African-American voters. Fifty percent of minority respondents report getting their news through social media, compared to 24 percent of whites. Similar differences for social media use can be found when the focus is on local or state oriented news.

Interestingly, New Jersey Democrats are more likely to be reading newspapers than Republicans in the state. Forty-nine percent of Democrats report regularly reading a newspaper to get news about national issues with 60 percent saying the same for state news, compared with 44 percent of Republicans looking for national news and 60 percent seeking news about the state.

“Nationwide, Democrats have been increasingly engaged in politics after the last Presidential election,” said Cassino. “Subscribing to a newspaper has become an act of protest for some Democrats, and we can see that increase in the numbers.”

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