Cable television has become the top source of news about the presidential campaign, while fewer Americans turn to their local TV stations and the networks, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
While public attention to cable news has remained steady over the last four presidential cycles, the attention to other television outlets and to newspapers for election information has declined. Perhaps most surprisingly, the Pew survey found that the percentage of those saying they use the Internet to access campaign news has stayed about the same as it was four years ago.
The percentage of the audience who say they regularly get information on the 2012 race was 36% from cable news, 32% from local TV, 26% from network TV, 25% from the Internet and 20% from newspapers. Some of the Internet audience, of course, goes to websites operated by television stations and by newspapers.
News consumption habits have changed markedly since 2000, when nearly half of those surveyed cited local TV as a regular source of news about that election. Local TV news was then the second most popular source, with 45% saying they went their regularly for campaign information.
The cable news networks have become particularly central in the current campaign as they have hosted a majority of the candidate debates that have been viewed as critical in framing the race.
The number of young people turning to online sources for information about the campaign has declined markedly since 2008. About 42% of those ages 18 to 29 said they regularly turned to the Web for news in the last election cycle, but that declined to 29% of the young demographic in the latest survey.
The decline is likely related to the intense interest among many young people in then-Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. On the weekend Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary, younger people expressed more interest in the fight over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the controversial legislation designed to rein in websites judged to be trafficking in purloined movies, music and other content.
Despite all the talk about the immense power of social networks in campaigning, the survey also found little play for Facebook and Twitter news in 2012. Just 6% of those surveyed said they regularly went to Facebook for news on the election and even fewer, 2%, said they regularly went to Twitter.
Most frequently cited as top news sources during the campaign were CNN (24%), Yahoo! (22%), Google (13%), Fox News (10%) and MSNBC (8%).
The results come from a survey conducted Jan. 4-8 among 1,507 adults nationwide.