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The relationship between general news habits and trust in the news

The majority of the public follows news and information with great interest and frequency.

And trust seems to be an important component related to how much people interact with news in general. Those who get news more frequently are more likely to put a very high value on certain specific factors related to trust, particularly that news organizations they rely on get the facts right and always have the latest news. They are also likely to say that the news is presented in a clear and concise way is important.

In contrast, there are not significant differences between people who follow news frequently and those who do not when it comes to other factors such as whether they care if the news is entertaining or that they like to be able to multitask when getting the news.

Majorities of Americans consume news frequently, access it from different devices, and believe it’s important

Americans are frequent and avid consumers of news. Eighty percent say they watch, read, or hear the news at least once a day, including 59 percent who say they do so several times a day.

A majority of Americans (60 percent) also say that keeping up with the news is very or extremely important to them. Just 8 percent report it is not very or not at all important to them.

News is now consumed on social networks, on mobile devices, and is “atomized”— or consumed throughout the day rather than just in a few “news sessions” at certain times of day. In this digital age, news consumers can be broken into two broad categories. There are news seekers, people who actively search out the news; and there are people whose behavior could be categorized as news bumpers, or who are more likely to discover news by accident as they are doing other things.

A year ago in a survey of adults under age 35, we asked people to tell us whether they were more prone to actively seek out news or would describe themselves instead as accidental news consumers. In that age group, the Millennial generation, 39 percent described themselves as seekers and 60 percent described themselves as bumping into news.

In this study of all adults, we asked the question again. The numbers are almost reversed. Among this larger population, 65 percent say they are more inclined to actively seek out news and information while 34 percent report that they mostly just bump into it as they do other things or hear about it from others.

Our past research also has found that people do not tend to have a preference for a particular device to getting the news — an idea that stands in some contrast to the television age. People say they will use whatever device fits the news they are seeking or the context in which they find themselves.

This new study reinforces that notion. Television does remain the most popular device for news in the United States; more than 8 in 10 say they have received news from a television in the past week. But it’s not the only source. More than 6 in 10 say that they have received news from a computer, cellphone, or radio. Fewer people use paper versions of newspapers or magazines, or tablets, and less than 1 in 10 receive news through an E‑reader.

Device Percent getting news from device in last week
Television 83%
Desktop or laptop computer 66%
Cellphone 63%
Radio 62%
Paper versions of newspapers or magazines 48%
Tablet 35%
E-reader 8%

Data Source: Question: Here are some different devices or technology that you might or might not use to get news and information. Did you use each device or technology to get news and information in the last week, or did you not? How about [ITEM]?

Media Insight Project

Despite Americans’ high frequency of news consumption, less than half say they pay for a newspaper or magazine either in print or online (47 percent). Print‑only subscriptions to newspapers and magazines are more popular than online or app subscriptions, but more Americans subscribe to cable television than subscribe to any type of newspaper or magazine.

Type of paid service or subscription Percent who pay
Cable television 64%
Newspaper only in print 20%
Newspaper only online/through app 11%
Newspaper both in print
and online/through app
16%
Magazine only in print 24%
Magazine only online/through app 6%
Magazine both in print
and online/through app
6%
Another type of paid service or subscription 15%

Data Source: Question: Do you currently use a PAID service or subscription that includes access to… [ITEM]?

Media Insight Project

Heavy news consumers say accuracy and completeness are important elements of trust

In general, the study finds a strong correlation between how much people value the general principles of trust and their level of news consumption.

People who follow news several times a day are more likely than those who do not follow news daily to believe that general principles like accuracy, completeness, transparency, and balance are important.

Get news several times a day Get news daily Get news less than once a day
Accuracy 91% 82% 74%
Completeness 82% 73% 66%
Transparency 75% 63% 54%
Balanced and fair 72% 65% 52%
Presentation 52% 49% 36%

Data Source: Question: You may trust some sources of news more than others. Thinking about the sources you consider trustworthy, how important is each of the following factors?

Media Insight Project

This correlation also holds when we dig down into the more specific factors associated with trust.

For example, those who get the news multiple times a day are more likely to cite accurate facts as very important to them than are those who get news less often (86 percent vs. 63 percent). They are more likely to put a premium on a news source always having the latest details than those who get news less often (84 percent vs. 58 percent). They are also more likely than less frequent news consumers to rate concise presentation of the news as important to them when they talk about the news sources they use most often (78 percent vs. 58 percent).

In contrast, there are not significant differences between people who follow news frequently and those who do not when it comes to making the news entertaining or being able to multitask when using the source.

Get news several times a day Get news daily Get news less than once a day
Gets facts right 86% 77% 63%
Always has latest news 84% 72% 58%
Concise and to the point 78% 69% 58%
Can use the source when doing something else 45% 41% 37%
Makes it entertaining 39% 39% 32%

Data Source: Question: Think about why you rely on [NAMED SOURCE] for the coverage of [NEWS TOPIC FOLLOWED]. How important is each of the following for you?

Media Insight Project

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