Pew study confirms young Americans are most likely to get their news from social networking sites

A new Pew Research study confirms that the under 25 crowd is driving the explosion of online news consumption.

Call it what you want – the Internet Generation, iGeneration or iGen – it’s clear that today’s young people are truly living up to their generational nicknames.

Although traditional news sources such as television, print news and radio are still king Americans 30 and up, the number of 18 -24 year-olds who told Pew they “ ‘got news or news headlines’ yesterday on social networking sites” such as facebook or Google+ has nearly tripled in the last two years. Among youth ages 25-29 it has more than doubled.

Of the 18-24 year-olds surveyed, 34 percent told Pew they got news yesterday from a social networking site, compared with 12 percent in 2010. Among 25-29 year olds the number was slightly lower, with 32 percent saying they got news from social media the day before, compared with 13 percent in 2010.

Likewise, 28 percent of 18-24 year-olds said they only got their news from online platforms compared to the 11 percent who said they only got their news from traditional sources. Roughly a third said they got their news from both sources (32 percent).

Among youth ages 25-29 nearly the same amount received their news from traditional sources (20 percent) as did from digital sources (19 percent) and 43 percent said they received it from both types. 

It’s no surprise that young people receive so much of their news online, especially when one considers that young people spend more of their free time on the Internet than doing anything else. Pew found that 86 and 87 percent of Americans ages 18-24 and 25-29 said they emailed or texted with a friend or family member the day before, making it by far the most popular activity among young people. By comparison the second and third most popular activities among 18-24 year old were using social networks (76 percent) and hanging out with friends or family (74 percent).

Also on the rise is the number of young Americans who get their news from mobile devices. According to the Pew report, 19 percent of Americans 18-24 and 23 percent of Americans ages 29 percent get their news on a cell phone, tablet or other mobile device.

The use of twitter for news has dramatically increased as well. Unfortunately, the survey did not break down data on twitter by age, but Pew reports that a total of 13 percent of Americans use twitter and 83 percent of tweeters use the platform to get news (a 25 percent increase from 2010), while 26 percent use it to get news on a daily basis (an 8 percent increase).

Perhaps the most important detail from the survey, though, was that 29 percent of 18-24 year olds said they read no news at all the day before, making them by far the most uninformed age group. Comparatively, only 19 percent of Americans ages 25-29 and 30-39 said they read no news the day before.

Other interesting revelations from the Pew survey:

  • Only 5 percent of 18-29 year olds say they follow political news “very closely.” (Weather was the top dog at 43 percent; surprisingly entertainment news only garnered 18 percent of vote.)
  • The amount of time young people spend reading, watching or listening to news has roughly stayed the same since 2004 (45 minutes).
  • Young people “enjoy” news less than any other age group.
  • Young people “enjoy” news less they did four years ago (-14 percent change).
  • Only 34 percent of 18-29 year olds surveyed said they had watched the news on TV the day before, down 15 percent from six years ago when half of young adults (49 percent) said they had.
  • The number of young Americans who regularly watch the local news has also drastically decreased. Only 28 percent of respondents said they watch the local news, compared with 42 percent in 2006 (-14 percent change).

The survey was conducted May 9-June 3, 2012 and 3,003 adults were interviewed.

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