To a young generation of Americans, Jon Stewart may as well be Walter Cronkite.
A new study has confirmed recent surveys that suggest an increasing number of young adults are using late-night comedy and talk shows as their primary vehicle for getting their news, particularly about politics and the 2004 election.
Those same people are turning away from traditional media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcast network evening newscasts in favor of the Internet and cable news networks, according to the Pew Research Center report, which queried 1,506 adults between Dec. 19 and Jan. 4.
“We found this a little bit four years ago, but it’s really significant (now),” said Carroll Doherty, the report’s editor. “Twenty percent say they learned something regularly from 'The Daily Show,’ 'Saturday Night Live’ or shows like that. This has doubled over the last four years.”
Another significant finding, Doherty said, was an increased stratification along partisan lines as to where people get their political news. For example, 29 percent of the Republicans responding said they watch Fox News Channel to learn about the campaign as opposed to 14 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of independents. Radio also tilts heavily toward Republicans, while the Internet was split fairly evenly.
On the other hand, 40 percent of the Democrats surveyed cited the three broadcast networks compared to 24 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of independents. And 27 percent of the Democrats are CNN fans compared to 20 percent of GOP and independent viewers.
Overall, the survey found only 35 percent of all Americans watch evening newscasts to learn about the Democratic presidential candidates and the campaign, compared with 45 percent in 2000. Similarly, usage of daily newspapers fell from to 31 percent from 40 percent, and even local television news dropped to 42 percent from 48 percent.
Who has gained in the period? Not surprisingly, the Internet, cable networks and, to a lesser extent, morning television, talk radio and National Public Radio. The Pew study found 13 percent follow the campaign primarily from the Web compared to 9 percent in 2000.