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Study: Majority of Americans Get News Via Social Media

A New York City Police Department (NYPD) sergeant uses his mobile phone while on duty in lower Manhattan in New York City, US, May 25, 2016.

For the first time in a public opinion survey, a majority of U.S. citizens said they now get news via social media.

In a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of respondents said they use social media sites such as Facebook, Reddit and Twitter to get their news. That’s up sizably from 49 percent from a similar poll Pew conducted four years earlier.

Researchers found the most popular social media site for news was Facebook, with 66 percent of registered users — nearly two-thirds — searching the site for news items posted by friends. Twitter performed nearly as well with 59 percent of users looking for news; LinkedIn, YouTube and Reddit also had sizable news viewership.

Of those using social media to find news, the majority at 64 percent only use one site, most often Facebook. Twenty-six percent get their news on two sites, with only 10 percent using three or more social media sources.

Researchers also found that the top five social media sites appeal to different demographic groups seeking news. For example, LinkedIn users are more likely than others to have a college degree, while Facebook users are most likely to be female and Instagram users most likely to be an ethnic minority.

Report authors Jeffrey Gottfried and Elisa Shearer point out that those using social media for news continue to search for information via more traditional sources, such as local or network television, radio, and print newspapers.

Nine social media platforms were included in the study: Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Vine. All nine sites showed growth in news viewership compared to a similar Pew study in 2013.

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    Doug Bernard

    Doug Bernard covers cyber-issues for VOA, focusing on Internet privacy, security and censorship circumvention. Previously he edited VOA’s “Digital Frontiers” blog, produced the “Daily Download” webcast and hosted “Talk to America”, for which he won the International Presenter of the Year award from the Association for International Broadcasting. He began his career at Michigan Public Radio, and has contributed to "The New York Times," the "Christian Science Monitor," SPIN and NPR, among others. You can follow him @dfrontiers.