Pew: Voters Find Cable News ‘Most Useful’

WASHINGTON — Cable news tops the sources most helpful for providing the public news about the 2016 presidential campaign, according to a new Pew Research Poll, although local-TV news is the source viewers most commonly turn to.

And a quarter of those who got some of their election news from TV said it came from late-night comedy shows.

A whopping 91% of Americans said they get information about the election from at least one of 11 different sources, with 24% saying cable news is “most helpful” in supplying that information, according to the poll.

But Pew said, based on past research, that 24% were likely divided ideologically as to which network had their allegiance: Fox News Channel for conservatives, CNN for liberals.

(Cable news networks also were the place last week to see Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders square off in a Feb. 3 Town Hall event on CNN and a Feb. 4 one-on-one debate on MSNBC; the Republicans debated on ABC this past Saturday and will clash on Fox News on March 3.)

In helpfulness, cable news was well ahead of local TV and social media, which tied at 14% apiece, followed by a news website or app at 13% and radio at 11%.

Overall, television was the most common information stream for election news, with 78% of respondents getting information from at least one of four TV-based news sources: local TV news (57%), cable (54%), network nightly newscasts (49%) and late-night comedy shows (25%).

But cable news was the top source for likely primary voters, the survey found.

Somewhat surprisingly, the study found that while half (51%) got election news from social network sites, only one in five actually shared election-related information that way.

The survey queried 3,760 adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.