This past election saw record numbers of voters. There were numerous comparisons of Americans’ voting behaviors after the election. Blue vs. Red. Urban vs. Rural. And Young vs. Older voters. In fact, younger voters (under 30) voted across most States by a margin of 20% or more on behalf of President Joe Biden than for former President Donald Trump.
A survey released after the election by the highly-regarded Pew Research Center shows that over two-thirds of 18-29 year old voters often get their news from devices such as phones, computers and tablets. In strong contrast, less than a majority of the 65 year old and older voters report they use digital sources to get news often. The 55 to 65 year old group is also heavily oriented to traditional news sources, while the 30 to 49 year old and older voters acted more like their younger fellow citizens, focusing more on digital sources for getting their news, than from traditional media like televisions, radio and print.
To further show the dramatic behavior differences in sources of news among voters in America, note that 16% of the youngest age group often used TV to get news while 68% of the oldest group used TV often to get their news.
It is also striking that only 3% of voters under 30 years old used print newspapers to get their news often, but 25% of the older voters (65 and above) said TV was a frequent source of news for them.
Across all age groups more than half of U.S. voters said they prefer digital devices for getting their news. Television only had 35% of all voters saying they preferred to get their news from TV. Not surprisingly, radio and newspapers only had 7% and 5% preference choice, respectively.
As you would expect social media has become a major source of newsfor all voters. As far back as 2004, in a Carnegie Corporation studyI helped lead, we had already started to highlight that younger people were much more likely to use the Internet to get their news. We predicted this would grow and it has in a very big way, particularly with the growth of smartphones.
So what does this mean for people covering the news and those consuming the news:
- Reporters and news outlets need to write for mobile devices – not just for a long printed newspaper article. Mobile news calls for a liberal use of headlines and subheadlines, photos, and short, scannable sentences and paragraphs.
- Government and political officials need to recognize that their messaging is often being consumed on mobile devices and they need to release the news or their opinions in formats and platforms that will appeal to young voters using mobile devices.
- The average citizen should be aware that longer, more in-depth analyses may exist in traditional sources on important issues and newsworthy figures.
- Likewise, reporters, editors, newsmakers, and the average person must recognize that social media has become a major outlet for news, which often means the news is being “reported” by a wide variety of types of folks, many of whom may be relying on other news or opinion that are “second-hand”.