Report: Civic Engagement, Local News Go Hand in Hand

A new Pew report finds that people who consume local news are more likely to be engaged with their communities—and those with high civic engagement tend to consume news more actively.

This week’s election drew a lot of attention to the top of the ballot, for obvious reasons, but a new Pew Research Center study has its eye lower down on local races—and it found something interesting in those results.

In Civic Engagement Strongly Tied to Local News Habits, Pew researchers Michael Barthel, Jesse Holcomb, Jessica Mahone, and Amy Mitchell report that people who follow local news are more likely to be attached to their community, more likely to vote in local elections, and slightly more likely to be part of a local group or political party.

That’s notable, as just 19 percent of U.S. adults feel highly attached to their local communities, while another 47 percent say they’re somewhat attached.

The study found that adults with high civic engagement not only read more local news but also get it from more diverse sources, with local TV news (52 percent), local radio (42 percent), and word of mouth (41 percent) the most popular.

“This quarter of the population who is highly active stands out from both the somewhat active … and the inactive … for more closely following local news, but not for having more positive attitudes toward local media, suggesting a link between active civic behavior and active news behavior,” the report states.

But the study found that people who aren’t active in their communities are about as likely as those who are somewhat active to keep an eye on the local news.

One factor that makes little difference, according to the survey? Local news habits are affected very little by how politically diverse an area is. On the other hand, the happier people are with their local communities, the happier they are with the way local news outlets cover them.

“Just as taking part in local political and civic groups is closely associated with greater interest in and intake of local news, positive civic attitudes closely connect with positive attitudes about local news,” the report states.

The full report is available at the Pew website.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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