Monday, July 11, 2016

Tribal Media Habits

Are people becoming more tribal in their news media consumption?

We've always known about the partisan and ideological migration of conservatives to Fox News, and to a lesser extent liberals to MSNBC, but this recent Gallup poll finds people are more likely than previously to name a specific news source (like CNN) rather than a generic one (television news).

Thanks to colleague Michael Castengera for pointing this survey out to me.

The change is not dramatic, especially if keep in mind the margins of error in the poll from 2013 and this year, and yet there's something going on. From the link above:
"Television news" and "internet/computer/online" are still the most popular answers when Americans are asked to name their "main source of news about current events in the U.S. and around the world." But they are slightly less likely to name each one than they were in 2013. Meanwhile, numerous individual media organizations such as Fox News, NPR and various internet sites saw small gains that were not statistically significant on an individual basis but showed a major increase when combined into total mentions of specific media organizations.
If you go here you can see the full numbers or check out the table I've cut and pasted below. As you can see, generic television decreased 4 percentage points and generic online two percentage points. Fox inched up, as did CNN, and the biggest increase is a mashup of social media (again, only 4 percentage points, keep in mind the margin of error here).

Is this worthy of a headline? Probably not as much as you'd think, given the small changes and margins of error of the two surveys, but a definite trend seems to be developing. In journalism, all we need are two data points to declare something "a trend," so yeah, it's not a thing I'd considered before, the "naming" of a source as specific or generic, but it probably says a lot about the growing tribal nature of our partisan politics and, increasingly, tribal news consumption habits.

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