Civic Engagement and News Intake

Pew Research Center, in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, recently conducted a study in which they tested to see whether a citizen’s civic engagement and local news habits were linked. A broad overview of their results showed that, 1) Regular local voting and community attachment are strongly linked to news habits, 2) Participation in civic life and community rating show weaker ties to news habits, and 3) Perceived political diversity shows little relationship with local news habits. For the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to focus on the first two results, local voting and community attachment.

The first thing the participants had to answer was how attached they felt to their community. The results showed that only about 19% of U.S. adults feel highly attached to their communities, 47% feel somewhat attached and 33% feel little or no sense of attachment. The participants were then asked whether or not they follow the news closely, how many sources they use, and whether or not they think the local media are doing a good job. The responses showed that 59% of the highly attached said they closely follow the news compared to 29% for the unattached, 44% of the highly attached regularly used three or more sources for the news compared to 17% for the unattached, and 35% of the highly attached thought the local media was doing a good job compared to the unattached at 13%. There is a pretty clear link between community attachment and local news intake.

The next question the participants were asked was if they always voted or not and those answers were also compared to the same three areas of news intake. For those who said they always vote, 52% follow the news closely, 38% get their news from three or more sources and 27% think the local media are doing a good job. For those who said they don’t always vote, 31% follow the news closely, 25% get their news from three or more sources and 18% think the local media are doing a good job. Again there was a pretty sizable difference between those who are civically engaged and those who aren’t and their news intake.

So what does this mean? According to these results, those who are civically active and feel attached to their community, more often than not, pay close attention to the news and partake from more than one source. It’s also interesting to note that, according to the article itself, “The relationships we see between local news habits and these various aspects of civic engagement all hold up when controlling for age, as well as income and education.” No matter how old, wealthy, or educated you are, watching the news is important. It is our duty as citizens of this country to be engaged, to vote, and to help our communities. Perhaps if we’d pay more attention to the news, we’d find our voice as a people again.

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