Cable news is the second-most-popular source of campaign news, up from fourth place in 2000, and the most popular among young people, according to a new Pew Research Center poll released Sunday.
Local TV news was where 42% of respondents said they regularly learned about campaigns and candidates, down from 48% in 2000.
Cable is now a regular source of campaign news for 38% of respondents. That’s up from 34% in 2000, pushing it ahead of the broadcast networks’ nightly newscasts and daily newspapers, which were at 35% and 31% respectively, down from 45% and 40% four years ago.
In the 18-29 age group, 37% chose cable news networks, while only 29% opted for local TV news and 23% apiece for network newscasts and daily newspapers. Also ranking high are comedy shows (21%) and the Internet (20%).
While most Americans still get their campaign news from local TV, those respondents scored near the bottom on the candidate recognition test. When asked to identify the candidate that was a former Army general (Wesley Clark) and the candidate that was the House Majority Leader (Dick Gephardt), 67% of those who picked local TV news as their primary source could identify neither candidate, while only 14% could correctly pick both.
Rounding out the bottom were morning TV shows (13%), TV comedy shows (11%) and late night shows (8%). Those who got their news from the Internet scored the highest, with 41% correctly identifying both, followed by NPR (36%), and newsmagazines (33%). The highest scoring TV category was Sunday political TV, where 31% got them both right. The bad news is that in all 18 categories, those who could name neither outnumbered those who could name both.
Another troubling finding is in the area of media bias. In a 1987 study, the vast majority of respondents, 62%, thought campaign coverage was free of political bias. Today that number is 38% and is edged out by the 39% who say it is biased.