How Americans Read the News
Two-thirds (67%) of Americans report that they get at least some of their news on social media – with two-in-ten doing so often, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.
For the first time in the Center’s surveys, more than half (55%) of Americans ages 50 or older report getting news on social media sites. That is 10 percentage points higher than the 45% who said so in 2016. Those under 50, meanwhile, remain more likely than their elders to get news from these sites (78% do, unchanged from 2016).
Furthermore, said the Center, about three-quarters of nonwhites (74%) get news on social media sites, up from 64% in 2016. The Center said this growth means that nonwhites are now more likely than whites to get news while on social media. And social media news use also increased among those with less than a bachelor’s degree, up nine percentage points from 60% in 2016 to 69% in 2017. Alternatively, among those with at least a college degree, social media news use declined slightly.
When looking at Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat, Pew Research found that Twitter usage has grown, 74%), up 15 percentage points from last year. On YouTube, about a third of users now get news there (32%), up from 21% in 2016. And news use among Snapchat’s user base increased 12 percentage points to 29% in August 2017, up from 17% in early 2016.
For five of the six remaining sites asked about – Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, LinkedIn and Tumblr –users were about as likely to get news from each as they were last year. The last site, WhatsApp, was asked about for the first time this year, and nearly a quarter, 23%, of its users get news there.
Looking at the population as a whole, according to the Center, Facebook by far still leads every other social media site as a source of news. It said that this is largely due to Facebook’s large user base, compared with other platforms, and the fact that most of its users get news on the site. Specifically, about two-thirds of Americans (66%) use Facebook, and a majority of those users get news on the site, similar to 2016. Looked at as a portion of all U.S. adults, this translates into just under half (45%) of Americans getting news on Facebook.
Even though YouTube has a large user base – 58% of the population – a smaller portion gets news there. In 2017, both the user base and the share getting news on YouTube grew, said the Center. The result is that 18% of all Americans now get news on YouTube, making it the second most common social media site for news – albeit still far behind Facebook.
Twitter has the reverse structure from YouTube: While a large share of its users get news on the site (74% say they do), its audience is significantly smaller overall. This means that overall, said the Center, fewer Americans get news on Twitter (11% of U.S. adults).
Not only have Americans grown somewhat in their use of social media for news overall, but now they are more likely than ever to get news from multiple social media sites. About one quarter of all U.S. adults (26%) get news from two or more of these sites, up from 18% in 2016 and 15% in 2013.
News users of Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp are particularly likely to get news on multiple social networks; at least 90% of their news users get news on at least two social media sites, said the Center.
Last, getting news on social media doesn’t mean that other more traditional pathways to news are ignored. Many social media news users also get news from a variety of other platforms, although there are some differences among the users of the various sites. Twitter news users, for example, siad the Center, are more likely to also often get news via news websites and apps than Facebook or YouTube news users. Facebook news users are more likely to often get news from local TV than those on YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat.