Thought Leadership

Pew Study Finds Americans Still Prefer Watching to Reading the News

A new survey from Pew Research Center revealed that Americans prefer to watch the news rather than read it by a ratio of 47 to 34 percent, marking only a minimal change from 2016’s study, which tallied 46 percent of respondents as news-watchers to 35 percent as news-readers.

Within the subset of news-watching respondents, 75 percent still favor television as their medium of choice. However, the survey suggests this strong majority may not last thanks to the internet. While in 2016 only 12 percent of news-watchers favored online content, now 20 percent report this preference. Overall, 34 percent of Americans now obtain their news from the web, marking a 6 percent increase from 2016.

The survey also revealed that:

  1. Fewer Americans are relying on newspapers. The survey reflected the country’s declining dependence on print media; only 7 percent of respondents, compared with 2016’s 11 percent, say they rely on newspapers to stay connected to current events.
  2. Young adults prefer online platforms. Among news-readers, more than three-fourths of respondents aged 18 to 49  prefer the web. In addition, nearly three times as many 18- to 49-year-old watchers prefer to get their news online as individuals ages 50-plus.
  3. Radio is still a popular medium. Since 2016, audio has seen an increase in popularity. Pew found that 19 percent of respondents say they prefer to listen to their news, a 2 percent increase up from two years ago. However, this isn’t because of podcasts — it’s because many Americans still listen on the radio. Fourteen percent of all individuals who took the survey report that the radio is their preferred medium overall for obtaining news, while 52 percent of Americans who consider themselves news-listeners favor radio over the web.

Dean Essner is the editorial assistant for PRSA’s publications. A former resident of Washington, D.C., he holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English from the University of Maryland. Email: dean.essner@prsa.org.

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Dean Essner

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