Pew: Social Media Political News Consumers Are Less Engaged

But local TV political news viewers score lowest on knowledge scale
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A new Pew Research study finds that people who get their political news from social media (16% of respondents) are less likely to get facts right and more likely to hear unproven claims, but the study found local TV viewers were the least knowledgeable. 

The study distinguishes social media news from a news Web site or app, which is where most U.S. adults (25%) said they are getting their news. Local TV and cable TV were tied for third most primary source at 16% apiece, followed by network news at 13%, radio at 8%, and print at 3%. 


Consumers of online news not from social media score the best in political knowledge, with 45% getting a "high" knowledge score based on an index of nine "knowledge questions"* and only 23% getting "low scores. Only 17% of those who rely on social media for their political news got a "high knowledge" score while 57% got "low." But those who said local TV was their primary source were at the bottom of the list with only 10% getting a "high knowledge" score and 69% getting low. 

Related: Pew Respondents Say Regulate Social Media

Of the 16% who get their info from social media (the majority tend to be under 30), the study found them to be less engaged with major news stories and less knowledgeable, though not less knowledgeable than those citing local TV as their primary source. For example, the study found that 8% of those who get "most of their political news from social media" say they follow 2020 election news “very closely,” compared to four times as many (37%) of those who said cable TV is their primary news source.  

The poll was based on data from five different surveys conducted from October 2019 to June 2020. The number of U.S. adults in each survey ranges between 8,914 and 12,043. 

* A "high" knowledge index score is for answering eight or all nine questions correctly; a "low" score is for those who answered five or fewer correctly.