President Obama addressing Congress

News media preference driven by politics?

Reps vs. Dems, blue vs. red, the donkey vs. the elephant…the two-party establishment with mainstream prominence is divided on all sorts of issues.  But one area in which they sort of agree — emphasis on ‘sort of’ — is which news media outlets are trusted most.

By participating in our Washington in the Information Age study, Washington Insiders (defined as Capitol Hill staffers, federal executives, and private sector professionals with influence in the policy community) from both sides of the aisle gave us a look at their media consumption habits.

Washington in the Information Age (or WIA, pronounced “wee-ah”) is an annual study conducted by our research team that digs into the details of how Washington Insiders seek out information, what their channels of preference are (websites, blogs, social media, etc.), and even their go-to platforms and brands.

The data we get from this study is pretty cool:

  • Want to know what the most popular digital device is for Capitol Hill staffers? Our WIA research showed that.
  • Or how about the time of day a federal executive will be watching television for pertinent news? Yep, our research showed that, too.
  • We can also see which channels people are checking on the weekends…and on what type of device.

What’s more? All of this information is filtered by age groups (millennials, baby boomers, etc.). It’s a pretty robust study, and the insights it provides can be very useful.

For example, you might assume that a Democrat’s most-preferred news source is MSNBC.  You might also assume that for a Republican, it’s Fox News. While those assumptions aren’t necessarily wrong, they don’t shed light on the full picture.

What we saw in our 2016 WIA survey was that nine out of the top fifteen media brands were the same for both Republican and Democrat insiders. Strikingly, the top two media brands were the same for both parties, but reversed in order of preference.

We were delighted by all the insights and trends we gleaned from the data we collected. We were also humbled to see that one of our sister brands, The Atlantic, and our own National Journal brand were among the fifteen most-preferred by both sides.

The real takeaway from the entire study was that digital and social channels are becoming more prominent and more influential in how Washington Insiders form opinions and make decisions.

What we don’t yet know is how the 2016 election battle, and Donald Trump’s subsequent presidency, have impacted news consumption behaviors. We’re hopeful that our 2017 WIA study will shed light on that.


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