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Survey: Radio, TV News Consumption Strong As Many Fear Misinformation.


Broadcast media continues to play an outsized role in informing the public, according to a new survey conducted for Free Press. The advocacy group says it finds more than three-quarters (77%) of Americans use radio and television at least a few times each week for updates on news and events. And 43% use radio and TV several times daily to stay informed. That put broadcast news well ahead of all other media, including Facebook, which 59% said they use a few times a week, and news apps, used by 55% of those surveyed.


Free Press surveyed public attitudes about media and technology in an election year, and it says the results show that at a time when concerns are growing about misinformation, many think more news is the answer. A majority 51% of respondents agree that “having more independent news outlets is important to stopping disinformation and is good for the health of our democracy.” And roughly the same number (52%) agree that “we should increase public funding to create and expand local and independent news.” Only 32% say there are enough choices in news outlets.“Across racial, ethnic and political divides, the poll shows high levels of concern about the twin problems of dwindling local news and the prevalence of false information online,” Free Press Co-CEO Jessica González said. “At a time of intense partisan gridlock, we see more consensus on these issues than one might expect. For instance, a vast majority of Americans oppose racism and other hate online and want social-media companies to block such content.”


Free Press says 72% across demographic categories say it is “acceptable” for platforms to block content that is considered racist or hateful. The majority of respondents also believe it’s “acceptable” for tech companies to prevent the distribution of political ads that violate terms of use against the spread of false information. Overall, 71% say they believe that “social media companies should limit false or fake information about elections that could be considered anti-democratic.


Large majorities are also concerned about election coverage in their communities. While local-news outlets received high favorability numbers among those surveyed, people worry that local coverage isn’t sufficient for them to be familiar with local candidates. Free Press says 28% of all adults say they feel “very well informed” when voting in local elections, with even lower percentages of Latinos and Asian-Americans saying they feel very well informed.


“The findings show us that an alarming number of people don’t feel very informed about local elections, that the high cost of internet access is still a challenge for many Americans, and that people are concerned about technology’s role in their lives, and particularly in terms of how it violates their privacy,” said Free Press Senior Policy Advisor Derek Turner.


Free Press worked with the pollsters at the African American Research Collaborative and BSP Research. The pollsters surveyed 3,000 American adults from March 1–18 to better understand how people use media and technology to access political news and other information. The poll oversampled Black, Latino and Asian-American/Pacific-Islander populations.“The poll yielded interesting insights into news-and-information consumption across racial and ethnic lines. It shows that two-thirds of Latino and Black people seek out culturally relevant news and information, and that two-thirds of Latinos seek out news and information in Spanish,” BSP Research President Matt Barreto said. “I was struck that Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are much less likely to report having enough information to make informed decisions when voting in local elections.” Notably, only 28% of all Americans indicate feeling very informed about local elections. Barreto said Latinos and Asian-Americans were even less likely to report having enough information is worthy of concern.”


African American Research Collaborative CEO Henry Fernandez says the survey made clear that we’re still in the “Wild West of fact checking,” with a large majority of Americans taking it upon themselves to verify information they read or hear.


“An overwhelming majority of respondents expressed concerns about the spread of misinformation in an election year,” Fernandez said. “This indicates that there’s a definite role for media and advocates to ensure that news and information better serves the needs of a diverse, multiracial democracy.”


Download the full report HERE.

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