Americans continue to prefer watching the news rather than reading or listening to it, and their viewing loyalties have yet to migrate fully to the web. Instead, the majority of US adults who prefer to watch the news opt for television as their primary news platform, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted July 30th-August 12th, 2018, among 3,425 US adults who are members of the Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel.
Overall, 47 per cent of Americans prefer watching the news rather than reading or listening to it. That is unchanged from 46 per cent in 2016 and outpaces the 34 per cent who prefer to read the news and 19 per cent who prefer to listen to it – both of which also remain on par with 2016 figures.
In addition to exploring the preferred format for news consumption, the study also measured which platform people preferred most for their news: print, television (through local, network or cable channels), the Internet (through websites, apps or social media) or radio. Television continues to rank first as the preferred platform. Just over four-in-ten US adults (44 per cent) prefer TV, compared with about a third (34 per cent) who prefer the web, 14 per cent who prefer radio and 7 per cent who prefer print. The only meaningful shifts since 2016 are a small increase in online and decrease in print news consumption.
The responses become even more revealing when looking at the two questions together: the preferred format for getting news (reading, watching or listening) and the preferred platform as the way to access it (print, television, online or radio).
Despite many recent online news video initiatives and the fact that nearly all adults get at least some news digitally, people who prefer to watch their news still also prefer television as their main platform for news.
Among the roughly half of US adults who prefer to watch their news, the vast majority – 75 per cent –prefer the television as a mode for watching; 20 per cent of watchers prefer the web. On the other hand, most of those who prefer to read their news prefer the web as their platform to receive news (63 per cent); 17 per cent prefer a print product. Listeners vary a bit more; about half (52 per cent) name radio as their preferred platform, 21 per cent name television and 20 per cent name the web.
Compared with in 2016, when these questions were first asked, those who prefer to watch their news are now slightly more likely to also prefer to get their news online. One-in-five news watchers now name the Internet as their preferred platform, versus 12 per cent then.
The portion of readers and listeners who prefer the web has not changed significantly since 2016, when a majority of those who prefer to read their news (59 per cent) already named the web as their preferred platform.
Adults younger than 50 are more likely than those ages 50 and older to prefer the Internet as the platform for getting news, regardless of which format (reading, watching or listening) they enjoy most.
Seventy-six per cent of those ages 18 to 49 who prefer to read the news, for example, also prefer the web, compared with 43 per cent of those 50 and older. Similarly, about three times as many 18- to 49-year-old watchers and listeners prefer to get their news online as their counterparts ages 50-plus.
Among readers especially, the older age group has increased its preference for the web since 2016, though they still trail 18- to 49-year-olds. In 2016, 49 per cent of those ages 50 and older who prefer to read their news also preferred a print paper, while 32 per cent preferred the web.
These findings come in the context of other research by the Center which speaks to a growing reliance on the web for news and a decline in television news viewing. As reported in September 2018, there is just a 6-percentage- point gap between those who say they often get news online and those who do so via television.
At least for now, though, Americans – especially older ones – have a penchant for watching news and getting that news on TV.