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Fewer Americans rely on TV news

January 8, 2018

Americans are relying less on television for their news, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. Just 50 per cent of US adults now get news regularly from television, down from 57 per cent a year prior in early 2016. But that audience drain varies across the three television sectors: local, network and cable. Local TV has experienced the greatest decline but still garners the largest audience of the three.

From 2016 to 2017, the portion of Americans who often rely on local TV for their news fell 9 percentage points, from 46 per cent to 37 per cent. By comparison, reliance on network TV news declined from 30 per cent to 26 per cent. Cable TV news use remained more stable, with 28 per cent often getting news there last year, compared with 31 per cent in 2016.

Even after these declines, local TV still has a wider reach overall for news than network and cable. Some demographic groups turn to each of the three television venues more than others, however.

There is a strong relationship between age and television news habits. Younger adults are less likely than older adults to often get news via all three TV platforms. For example, just 8 per cent of those ages 18 to 29 often get news from network TV, compared with 49 per cent of those 65 and older.

Education and income also play a role in local and network TV news consumption habits. For instance, among adults who have completed college, 26 per cent often get news from local TV and 21 per cent from network TV – much less than those with no more than a high school degree (47 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively). News use on cable varies little by education or income, however.

Race and gender are factors only for local TV. About four-in-ten non-whites (41 per cent) often get news from local TV, compared with 35 per cent of whites. Women are also more likely than men (41 per cent vs. 33 per cent) to often get news from local TV. The shares of non-whites and whites and of men and women who often get news from cable and network TV are roughly the same.

Some partisan differences also emerge in network and cable news consumption habits, but not for local TV. Three-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents often get news from network TV, compared with 21 per cent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. The pattern is reversed for cable, though: 26 per cent of Democrats and Democratic leaners often get news from cable TV, compared with 32 per cent of Republicans and Republican leaners. There were no differences by party in local TV news use (36 per cent of Democrats/Democratic leaners said they often get news there, while 38 per cent of Republicans/Republican leaners said this).

Categories: Articles, Broadcast, Consumer Behaviour, Research