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Survey Shows Millennials Are Logged In, Definitely Not Tuned Out

By Danette Chavez in Food on Mar 17, 2015 2:00PM

Millennials are back in the news...because of news. A recent survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute examined how Generation Y gets informed and found that fears about millennials' indifference to (or ignorance of) the world around them have been greatly exaggerated.

The joint study is the latest undertaking of the Media Insight Project, a series that focuses on "the habits of news consumers in the United States." AP-NORC, whose headquarters are located on the University of Chicago campus, launched the initiative with the American Press Institute last year. The project includes surveys of the online habits of some minority groups in the country, as well as a study on the personal news cycle.

The millennials survey is the latest in the series, having been conducted earlier this year. Over 1000 subjects were interviewed about how they spend their time online in general, as well as if and how they sought out news items. Hearteningly enough, 85% of those surveyed said it is "somewhat important" to them to keep up with the news and another 69% said that they do so on a daily basis. Virtually all the respondents stated that they consumed a mix of "hard news, lifestyle news, and practical 'news you can use'."

So where did all the handwringing about the "first digital generation" begin? There's certainly an abundance of op-eds and concern-trolling posts about the kids not being all right, but they're mostly tut-tutting about entitlement and self-absorption.

It looks like the Pew Research Center might have sounded the apathy alarm with a national poll that found older generations spent more time (as much as half an hour more a day) watching or listening to the news than their younger counterparts. No real surprise there, but what apparently freaked out analysts and pundits was that Generation Y (and also X) gave no indication that their news consumption would increase as they got older. And so the conclusion was drawn (precipitously) that younger people just don't care about what's happening around them.

Millennials did admit to initially encountering most news via social media sites, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Reddit. But they also responded that they prefer to get in-depth information by going straight to the source and a trusted source at that; 57% would only navigate to a familiar site and 52% said they prefer those sites to be chock full of references and links. This is in line with the Pew poll results that showed "people across all generations are most likely to discover news by going directly to a news organization, rather than letting the news come to them." The difference is where they start their reading, and that's what's made all the difference in this comparison. Since nearly everyone is getting at least some of their news online and through social media, that might be a distinction best forgotten.