For many years, polls have shown that local TV is the most popular medium in America for news. This survey, however, adds interesting and limiting dimensions to that finding.
Local TV (which for the purposes of this survey includes both televised broadcasts and local television websites) is the most popular source for the two topics that almost everyone is interested in—weather and breaking news. It has made itself essential in people's lives for events happening right now, though the survey also finds that the internet is creeping into those territories.
It is also striking and potentially significant for the future that local TV ranks relatively low on the list of key sources for other local topics that garner more limited interest but reflect much of the day-to-day activities of local civic life.
Overall, 89% of adults say they get information about local weather and 80% follow local breaking news. When asked what source they rely on most for this kind of news, local TV clearly ranks first. Fully 58% of adults say they turn to local TV for weather information; 55% named local TV as their top source for breaking news. The internet ranks second for both of these topics, but with a gap of more than 25 percentage points (32% turn to the internet for weather and 16% for breaking news).
Local television is also the outlet of choice for adults interested in traffic and transportation news and information, though less than half of those surveyed (47%) say they follow this topic at all.
For breaking news, local television’s dominance cuts across age groups. Even among adults under 40, roughly twice as many turn to TV as turn to the internet, 47% versus 22%.
When it comes to weather updates, however, the under-40 audience is nearly split: 44% name local TV as their primary source and 41% cite internet sources other than local television or newspaper websites. The same TV versus web divide occurs among social network users and mobile news consumers—two practices still most heavily used by younger generations.
(Men seem to be making the switch to Web-based sources for local weather more than women. While most men, 55%, turn to local TV for weather, 36% rely on the internet as their top source. Just 28% of women say the internet is their top source for weather.)