Facebook Is a Bigger Source for Political News Than CNN, Fox
By Todd Wasserman
Facebook is the second-biggest source where Americans with Internet access get their political news, trailing only local TV, according to a Pew Research study.
The report, based on a recent poll of 2,901 people, found 49% of respondents got political news from local TV and 48% from Facebook in a typical week. That compares to 44% for CNN and 39% for Fox News.
Pew cautioned, however, that those percentages were based on the 89% of Americans who have Internet access. If you include unconnected households, then 39% of Americans got political news from Facebook. Pew reports that Facebook is far ahead of YouTube and Twitter as a platform for political news. Just 14% of Internet-equipped respondents said they got such news from YouTube and 9% said they got it from Twitter.
The figures are a reflection of Facebook’s broad reach. Some 77% of respondents say they’re on Facebook vs. 63% for YouTube and 22% for Twitter. As Pew has previously reported, such users don’t necessarily seek out political news on Facebook, but instead see it in their News Feeds.
Since Facebook feeds are driven by friends and acquaintances, the prominence of Facebook as a platform for political news may contribute to the growing political polarization in the U.S. “When it comes to getting news about politics and government, liberals and conservatives inhabit different worlds. There is little overlap in the news sources they turn to and trust,” the report’s authors write.
Only about 20% of the public is consistently liberal or consistently conservative, according to Pew. (The breakdown is 12% to 9%.) But those on both extremes have more impact on the political process than the other 80% since they are more likely to vote, donate to campaigns and participate directly in politics.
Among consistent liberals, the top news sources are CNN, NPR, MSNBC and The New York Times. No media source is as influential among liberals as Fox News is among conservatives, though. Some 47% of consistent conservatives cite Fox News as their main source of political news:
Among the most trusted news sources for hardcore conservatives were Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, The Wall Street Journal and Fox News, while liberals chose the BBC, NPR, PBS, CNN and the major TV networks. One rare overlap was The Wall Street Journal, which both sides said they trusted. Perhaps that’s because the Rupert Murdoch-owned WSJ is known for reporting news objectively even as its editorial page takes conservative positions.
The report found consistent liberals trusted more news sources than consistent conservatives, and the latter were more likely to have like-minded friends. Among such conservatives, 47% say the posts they see on Facebook are mostly in line with their views. Only 23% of average Facebook users and 32% of consistent liberals say that’s the case.
Consistent liberals, however, are more likely (44%) to block or defriend Facebook friends over a political disagreement than consistent conservatives (31%) and the average Facebook user (26%).