Over half of respondents to a new survey conducted by Kaiser & Partners increased their consumption of news media and 60 per cent cited established news media as the most credible source
November 2, 2020, TORONTO – The COVID-19 pandemic forced Canadians to rapidly alter many aspects of in their daily lives, and as a byproduct, their news consumption habits and the sources of information they find the most credible also changed. According to a new survey from Kaiser & Partners, the majority of Canadians (57%) increased their consumption of news media as a result of the pandemic and returned to traditional news sources in droves, with one third (31%) reading more online news from established media and one third (27%) returning to broadcast TV news.
With the proliferation of misinformation, the need for trusted and credible information has become more important than ever. According to the survey, Canadians continue to place the greatest amount of trust and credibility in established news media sources, cited as the most credible news source by the majority (60%) of respondents. These findings, complemented by Canadians’ reinvigorated affinity with established news media, bode well for an industry that is challenged with reporting on and defending the veracity and biases of its content.
“I’m encouraged to see that Canadians continue to place their trust in the fact-based reporting that newsrooms across our country work so hard to deliver,” said Janine Allen, president, Kaiser & Partners. “The survey results crystallize my own conviction that those of us in the public relations industry have a shared responsibility to ensure that only full and true information is shared – whether we are working with the media, sharing content online, or through other communications channels.”
Credibility of government information, public health agency content and social media lags traditional news sources
As a result of the pandemic, Canadians have been exposed to greater communication, content and messaging from various levels of government and public health agencies. According to Kaiser & Partners’ survey, these two sources of information lag behind established news media as the primary channel of credible information. Just under half (48%) of Canadians cited government information as credible, while just over half (57%) said the same of public heath agency content.
While social media, a popular source of news information, saw a rise in consumption during this time, it is still not viewed as a credible source. The survey findings found that one quarter (27%) of Canadians cite experts’ social media platforms as credible sources of information, while only eight per cent said the same of social media in general and a further five per cent citing the same for other online platforms such as Reddit, Quora and discussion groups.
Changes in media consumption and credible sources varies by province, demographic
From a regional perspective, Canadians living in Ontario noted the highest return to online news from established news media (36%), followed by Alberta (34%) and B.C. (31%). The survey also found that Canadians are increasingly seeking out balanced news from other news sources since the beginning of the pandemic, including social media (27%), podcasts (13%), radio (13%), blogs (5%) and physical newspapers (4%). Ontarians indicated the greatest change in their news media consumption habits (62%) compared to those in Atlantic Canada (47%). Ontarians similarly increased their exposure to social media for news more than other provinces (32%), while those in Quebec cited the highest return to broadcast TV news (31%).
When it comes to credibility, respondents in B.C. (65%), Ontario (64%) and Quebec (60%) found established news media the most credible, compared to Atlantic Canada (57%), Alberta (49%) and Saskatchewan/Manitoba (48%). Public health agency information was the least likely to be trusted by those in Quebec (51%), but the most likely to be trusted by those in Ontario (60%) and B.C. (64%). Relatedly, only one third of Albertans (33%) place credibility in information released by the government compared to one half of those in B.C. (53%).
Through a linguistic lens, anglophone Canadians were more inclined to increase their consumption of online news from established news media (33%) compared to francophone Canadians (21%). The opposite is true when looking at broadcast TV, with a greater number of francophone Canadians returning to this channel (32%) compared to anglophone Canadians (26%).
Differences were also apparent by gender – in general, those who identify as women changed their news consumption habits (60%) compared to their male peers (54%), and are similarly more inclined to find established news media credible compared to men (63% and 56%, respectively). Women also place more credibility in public health agencies and government information (62% and 53%) compared to men (52% and 42%), while men found greater credibility in online content from industry experts (16% compared to 11% of women).
With age as the defining factor, Canadians over the age of 55 were the most inclined to have changed their consumption habits (60%) compared to those 18-34 (58%) and 35-54 (53%). Not surprisingly, this age range also places the greatest credibility in established news media (65%) compared to those 18-34 (59%) and 35-54 (54%). Public health agency content and government information is also the most trusted by those 55+ (61% and 51%, respectively) compared to those 18-34 (59% and 53%) and 35-54 (52% and 41%).
This online survey of 1,500 Canadians was completed between October 21 and 23, 2020, using Angus Reid’s online panel. The margin of error for this study was +/- 2.53%.
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