Washington: A new study has given insight into the news habits of America's first digital generation, suggesting that Millennials are anything but "newsless," passive, or uninterested in civic issues.
NORC at the University Of Chicago's study finds that Millennials consume news and information in strikingly different ways than did previous generations. Contrary to popular perception, they keep up with news that is commonly referred to as "traditional or hard," as well as stories that connect them to hobbies, culture, jobs, and entertainment.
Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, added that this study finds that across a range of metrics, the first digital generation is highly engaged. If anything, the enormous role of social media appears to have a widening impact, not a narrowing one, on the awareness of this generation.
The study found that fully 69 percent of Millennials report getting news at least once a day, 40 percent several times a day. Millennials say they acquire news for a variety of reasons, which include a fairly even mix of civic motivations (74 percent), problem-solving needs (63 percent), or social factors (67 percent) such as talking about it with friends.
Contrary to the idea that social media creates a polarizing filter bubble, exposing people to only a narrow range of opinions, 70 percent of Millennials say that their social media feeds are comprised of a diverse mix of viewpoints evenly mixed between those similar to and different from their own. An additional 16 percent say their feeds contain mostly viewpoints different from their own. And nearly three-quarters of those exposed to different views (73 percent) report they investigate others' opinions at least some of the time-with a quarter saying they do it always or often.
Facebook has become a nearly ubiquitous part of digital Millennial life. On 24 separate news and information topics studied, Facebook was the No. 1 or No. 2 gateway to learn about 20 of them.
While Millennials are highly equipped, it is not true they are constantly connected. More than 90 percent of adults age 18-34 surveyed own smartphones, and half own tablets, but only half (51 percent) say they are online most or all of the day.
Researcher Trevor Tompson noted that for many Millennials, news is part of their social flow, with most seeing it as an enjoyable or entertaining experience. It is possible that consuming news at specific times of the day for defined periods will soon be a thing of the past given that news is now woven into many Millennials' connected lives.