TV Still Dominant Source of Political/Campaign News

According to a new survey from the
Pew Internet & American Life Project, a quarter of all U.S. adults (24%)
got most of their news about the 2010 elections from the Internet, which is up
over threefold since 2002 and up 9% since the last midterm election in 2006.
But television still dominates, with almost two-thirds (67%) saying they get
their campaign/election coverage from TV. That is down only slightly from the
69% figure in 2006, or, statistically speaking, essentially no change at all
(the margin of error is in the 2.4-2.8% range).

Newspapers still top the 'net, with
27% saying that is where they get most of their election news, but that is down
from 34% in 2006. Newspapers also now rank behind online news sources for the
under-50 crowd, according to the study.

If, as they say, all politics is
local, then the most popular source of coverage is as well. The study found
that "local news programming" was the top source of TV news at 33%.
The study did not break that out between local broadcast news and regional news
channels like a News Channel 8 in Washington.

The next biggest source was Fox News
Channel at 26%, up from 21% in 2006; NBC Network News was next at 12%, but down
from 17% in 2006. CNN was next at 14%, but also down from 17% in 2006; followed
by ABC Network News at 10%, down from 5%; CBS Network News at 9%, down from
13%, MSNBC at 5%, down from 6%; and CNBC at 2%, down from 3%.

But Fox, CNN and MSNBC are also
major players in the online space, according to the study. was the
main source of online political news at 22%, followed by Yahoo at 20%, Google
at 13% and Fox at 10%. MSNBC was the main source for 7% of respondents.
According to PEW, Republicans, Tea Party supporters and conservatives were more
likely to watch Fox, while Democrats, liberals and those not supporting the Tea
Party were more likely to watch CNN, MSNBC or the network newscasts.

The increased use of online for
campaign info is a double-edged sword. While 61% of the respondents said
it exposes people to a wider range of political views than traditional media,
56% say it is "usually difficult" for them to tell what online
information is true and what is not. Could that be because of the absence of
that trusted traditional media editorial function, despite the fact that
veteran media outlet CNN is the most-visited single site? The report's author,
Aaron Smith, Pew Internet Senior Research Specialist, sees it more as
respondents being worried about effects on others that they don't see on
themselves. "Generally when we ask these types of questions, we see people
responding very positively to the Internet's benefits to them personally
while expressing concern for the Internet's impacts on other people or society
in general," he says. "They say it makes it easier for me to connect
with other people and expose me to a wider range of traditional viewpoints, but
I worry that other people are being exposed to extreme comments or

But there could be some of that lack
of trusted moderator. He pointed out that while CNN is listed at the top,
the single biggest category was the "long tail" of 29% who picked the
"somewhere else" category.

And while 54% of said the 'net makes
it easier to connect with others who share their political views, 55% said it
also increases the influence of those with extreme views. Maybe that answer
could be a key to the one about determining the truth online?
"Absolutely," says Smith. "Increasing the influence of people
with extreme viewpoints, I would expect that regardless of your political affiliation
you are probably thinking about 'the other guys' when you are answering that

The report was based on a daily
tracking (phone) poll of Internet use. It was conducted by Princeton Survey
Research Associates International from November 3-24, 2010, among a sample of
2,257 adults, age 18 and older.

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.