In this campaign season, the social networks have nothing on the news networks.
A new survey from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press finds cable news most frequently cited as a regular source of political campaign news, followed by local TV news, network news, the Internet and finally local newspapers.
Twitter, YouTube and Facebook were at the bottom of the list.
But with only Republicans choosing a presidential nominee this time around, fewer people are interested in following campaign news in any medium.
This year's poll marks the first time that cable news topped the list of campaign news sources, with 36 percent of those surveyed reporting that they regularly learn something about the campaign or the candidates from pay TV news. Cable has not gained as a source since early in the 2008 cycle, when 38 percent identified it as a top source. But the share who said they regularly get news from other TV sources or newspapers has declined.
Asked where they get most of their campaign news, 74 percent cited television, in keeping with findings over the past few election cycles. Thirty-six percent said the Internet is their main source, up 10 points from this point in 2008, and newspapers provided most of the news for 23 percent, down 7 points.
Use of the Internet as a regular campaign news source has held steady at 25 percent, on par with the 24 percent who regularly turned to the web in 2008. Pew attributes the lack of growth to declining interest in campaign news overall, particularly among younger adults, the primary users of online news.
In January 2008, 34 percent of adults said they followed election news very closely. But that dipped to 29 percent this year, with the steepest declines among those under age 30 and Democrats. The 2008 campaign saw a relatively slim, 8-point difference in strong election interest by age. This year, however, senior citizens are twice as likely as those aged 18-29 to say they are following campaign news very closely.
Among older age groups, the share saying they turn to the Internet regularly for campaign news has held steady or climbed, but among those under age 30, that figure has dropped sharply, from 42 percent in December 2007 to 29 percent now.
A majority of those surveyed said they use social networking sites like Facebook, but most do not use them for news. Just 6 percent regularly turn to Facebook for campaign updates, and 2 percent go on Twitter.
But the low standing of social networking sites doesn't mean they aren't a news source with potential for broader appeal.
In early 2000, just 6 percent of survey recipients said they got most of their campaign news from the Internet. That grew to 13 percent by the start of the 2004 campaign and has nearly tripled, to 36 percent, in the eight years since.
Among current Twitter users, 41 percent said they turn to the site at least sometimes for news, among users of other social networking sites, 36 percent sometimes or regularly use Facebook for news.
Those using online news sources this cycle are most likely to turn to traditional news sites, such as CNN and Yahoo News, and aggregators, such as Google, over the candidates' websites or social networking sites.
CNN (24 percent) and Yahoo News (22 percent) top the list of online sources, followed by Google (13 percent), Fox News (10 percent), MSN (9 percent) and MSNBC (8 percent). All other sites were named by 5 percent or less, including Facebook, Twitter, the Drudge Report and Huffington Post.
Interaction with a candidate's online campaign is generally not seen as a key source of information. Just 2 percent who use the Internet for campaign information say they turn to candidate websites for news, but many more have had online contact with a candidate.
Among registered voters, 15 percent say they have visited a candidate's website and 16 percent have received email from campaign or political groups. Six percent say they have followed a candidate on Twitter or Facebook, rising to 12 percent among those under age 30.
But whether online, on TV or in print, few Americans find it fun to keep up with politics. Overall, just 23 percent said they deeply enjoy following campaign news. The number dips to 17 percent among political independents, and to 13 percent of those under age 30.
The Pew Center's campaign news survey was conducted Jan. 4-8 and included interviews with a random national sample of 1,507 adults contacted by landline and cellular telephone. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Pew Research Center: http://www.people-press.org