A new report Pew Research finds that about a third of American adults continue to receive their news regularly from Facebook, although the exact percentage has fallen from 36% in 2020 to 31% in 2021. This drop reflects a slight overall decline in the number of Americans. who say they get their news from any social media platform, a percentage that also fell 5 percentage points year-over-year, from 53% in 2020 to just under 48%, the Pew study found.
By definition, “regularly” here means that respondents said they get their news “often” or “sometimes”, rather than “rarely”, “never” or “no digital news”.
The change comes at a time when tech companies have be under heavy scrutiny for allowing misinformation to spread across their platforms, Pew notes. That criticism has intensified throughout the pandemic, prompting doubts and rejection of the vaccine, which in turn has led to worsened health outcomes for many Americans who consumed the misleading information.
Despite these issues, the percentage of Americans who regularly receive their news from various social media sites has not changed much over the past year, showing just how much of people’s daily news habits have become on these sites. .
In addition to the one-third of American adults who regularly get their news on Facebook, 22% say they regularly get their news on YouTube. Twitter and Instagram are regular news sources for 13% and 11% of Americans, respectively.
However, many of the sites have seen small declines as a regular source of news among their own users, says Pew. This is a different measure compared to the much smaller percentage of American adults who use the sites for news, as it speaks to how the sites’ own user bases may perceive it. In a way, it is a measure of the changing news consumption behaviors of the often a younger user of social media, more specifically.
Today, 55% of Twitter users regularly receive news from its platform, compared to 59% last year. Meanwhile, use of the site for news by Reddit users fell from 42% to 39% in 2021. YouTube fell from 32% to 30%, and Snapchat fell from 19% to 16%. Instagram is more or less the same, from 28% in 2020 to 27% in 2021.
Only one social media platform grew as a news source during this time: TikTok.
In 2020, 22% of users of the short-form video platform said they regularly receive their news there, compared with a 29% increase in 2021.
However, overall, most of these sites have very little traction with the broader adult population in the U.S. Less than 1 in 10 Americans regularly receive their news from Reddit (7%), TikTok (6%) , LinkedIn (4%), Snapchat (4%), WhatsApp (3%) or Twitch (1%).
There are also demographic differences between who uses which sites.
White adults tend to turn to Facebook and Reddit for news (60% and 54%, respectively). Black and Hispanic adults make up a significant proportion of regular Instagram news consumers (20% and 33%, respectively). Younger adults tend to turn to Snapchat and TikTok, while the majority of news consumers on LinkedIn have four-year college degrees.
Of course, the latest Pew survey, conducted from July 26 to August 8, 2021, is based on self-reported data. That means people’s responses are based on how users perceive their own use of these various news gathering sites. This can produce different results compared to real-world measurements of how often users visited sites to read news. Some users may underestimate its use and others may overestimate it.
People may also not fully understand the ramifications of reading news on social media, where headlines and posts are often molded into an inflammatory clickbait to attract engagement in the form of reactions and comments. This, in turn, can encourage strong reactions, but not necessarily from those worth listening to. In recent Pew studies, he found that social media news consumers tended to be less informed on the facts on key news topics, like elections or Covid-19. And social media consumers more frequently exposed to fringe conspiracies (Which is pretty obvious to anyone reading the comments!)
For the current study, the total sample size was 11,178 respondents and the sampling error margin was plus or minus 1.4 percentage points.