News Media Use and the Informed Public in the Digital Age
Perhaps one of the most enduring assumptions of political communication research concerns the perennial finding that despite tides of media distrust and revolutionary advances in communications technology, local television newscasts remain the dominant source of public affairs information for most Americans. Although the basic truth of this nearly sacred assumption remains for now, it is under greater strain than ever before, and this and other assumptions about how individuals acquire political information from the media must be continually investigated. In this article, we use data from a nationally representative online survey to provide just such a reexamination of relationships between news media use and political knowledge. Findings suggest significant changes in the contemporary media environment. By some measures, directed Internet searches have come to rival television news as a source for information, and newspapers no longer appear to have the strongest educative influences. In addition to providing an updated assessment of media use and political knowledge patterns, we consider the implications of our findings for contemporary theoretical discussions in the field of political communication.