September 10, 2018

News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2018

Methodology

The American Trends Panel (ATP), created by Pew Research Center, is a nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults recruited from landline and cellphone random-digit-dial (RDD) surveys. Panelists participate via monthly self-administered web surveys. Panelists who do not have internet access are provided with a tablet and wireless internet connection. The panel is being managed by GfK.

Data in this report are drawn from the panel wave conducted July 30-Aug. 12, 2018 among 4,581 respondents. The margin of sampling error for the full sample of 4,581 respondents is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Members of the American Trends Panel were recruited from several large, national landline and cellphone RDD surveys conducted in English and Spanish. At the end of each survey, respondents were invited to join the panel. The first group of panelists was recruited from the 2014 Political Polarization and Typology Survey, conducted Jan. 23 to March 16, 2014. Of the 10,013 adults interviewed, 9,809 were invited to take part in the panel and a total of 5,338 agreed to participate.3 The second group of panelists was recruited from the 2015 Pew Research Center Survey on Government, conducted Aug. 27 to Oct. 4, 2015. Of the 6,004 adults interviewed, all were invited to join the panel, and 2,976 agreed to participate.4 The third group of panelists was recruited from a survey conducted April 25 to June 4, 2017. Of the 5,012 adults interviewed in the survey or pretest, 3,905 were invited to take part in the panel and a total of 1,628 agreed to participate.5

The ATP data were weighted in a multistep process that begins with a base weight incorporating the respondents’ original survey selection probability and the fact that in 2014 some panelists were subsampled for invitation to the panel. Next, an adjustment was made for the fact that the propensity to join the panel and remain an active panelist varied across different groups in the sample. The final step in the weighting uses an iterative technique that aligns the sample to population benchmarks on a number of dimensions. Gender, age, education, race, Hispanic origin and region parameters come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey. The county-level population density parameter (deciles) comes from the 2010 U.S. decennial census. The telephone service benchmark comes from the July-December 2016 National Health Interview Survey and is projected to 2017. The volunteerism benchmark comes from the 2015 Current Population Survey Volunteer Supplement. The party affiliation benchmark is the average of the three most recent Pew Research Center general public telephone surveys. The internet access benchmark comes from the 2017 ATP Panel Refresh Survey. Respondents who did not previously have internet access are treated as not having internet access for weighting purposes. Respondents were also weighted according to their previously reported usage of nine different social networks for news consumption. Panelists were weighted using their previous responses to these questions from Wave 28 (August 2017). For panelists who did not respond to Wave 28, values for these items were imputed using chained equations and classification and regression trees (CART). These variables were then weighted so that respondents’ past social media news usage matched the distribution that was observed in Wave 28. Sampling errors and statistical tests of significance take into account the effect of weighting. Interviews are conducted in both English and Spanish, but the Hispanic sample in the American Trends Panel is predominantly native born and English speaking.

The following table shows the unweighted sample sizes and the error attributable to sampling that would be expected at the 95% level of confidence for different groups in the survey:

Unweighted sample sizes and the error attributable to sampling

Sample sizes and sampling errors for other subgroups are available upon request.

In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

The July 2018 wave had a response rate of 84% (4,581 responses among 5,475 individuals in the panel). Taking account of the combined, weighted response rate for the recruitment surveys (10.1%) and attrition from panel members who were removed at their request or for inactivity, the cumulative response rate for the wave is 2.5%.6

Measuring social media usage

Like many survey organizations, Pew Research Center has been transitioning from conducting mainly traditional telephone polling to surveying more online. We have measured social media usage both ways, and on occasion results from telephone and online polling differ. Several potential factors contribute to this including different question wording online versus by phone, the presence of an interviewer on the phone but not online, and more. This report provides estimates from our August 2018 online poll. For questions about our telephone measure, please contact info@pewresearch.org.

© Pew Research Center, 2018

  1. When data collection for the 2014 Political Polarization and Typology Survey began, non-internet users were subsampled at a rate of 25%, but a decision was made shortly thereafter to invite all non-internet users to join. In total, 83% of non-internet users were invited to join the panel.
  2. Respondents to the 2014 Political Polarization and Typology Survey who indicated that they are internet users but refused to provide an email address were initially permitted to participate in the American Trends Panel by mail, but were no longer permitted to join the panel after Feb. 6, 2014. Internet users from the 2015 Pew Research Center Survey on Government who refused to provide an email address were not permitted to join the panel.
  3. White, non-Hispanic college graduates were subsampled at a rate of 50%.
  4. Approximately once per year, panelists who have not participated in multiple consecutive waves are removed from the panel. These cases are counted in the denominator of cumulative response rates.