January 24, 2020

American News Pathways project FAQ

Frequently asked questions about the American News Pathways project

General questions about the American News Pathways project

Questions about getting help

Questions about methodology

General questions about the American News Pathways project

What is American News Pathways?

American News Pathways is Pew Research Center’s new, ongoing research initiative exploring how Americans’ news habits and attitudes relate to what they hear, perceive and know about the 2020 presidential election. The initiative launches in January 2020 and will run through the election and its results. The research is based on six waves of surveys conducted on the Center’s American Trends Panel, a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults, fielded between November 2019 and October 2020.

One main Pathways product is an online tool that makes our data about news and the 2020 election available to the public for independent analysis. Beginning January 2020, the Center will update the online tool approximately every other month to provide users with the latest data. Click here for more details.

Additionally, there are periodic analyses which focus on key topics and findings from the data as well as occasional data snapshots that highlight key figures. You can sign up to receive alerts about the latest Pathways data releases and timely analyses on the Pathways landing page. You can also email Hannah Klein (hklein@pewresearch.org) to receive these alerts.

Learn more about the methodology here.

What data is available from American News Pathways?

The data collected for the American News Pathways project explores where Americans get their news, which news sources and platforms they trust to deliver information, and how this aligns with what they think and believe about the 2020 campaign. All of this will be made available to the public very quickly after collection. Demographic factors – such as age, education and political affiliation – can be examined alongside people’s news media and election-related responses.

Pew Research Center will release the survey questions and data from the American News Pathways project in our online tool about every other month in 2020, with key findings published in periodic analyses every Wednesday at 10 a.m. Eastern.

You can access the raw data behind this project in three ways: Use the online data tool, create an account to download the survey datasets for independent analysis. Survey datasets are available in SPSS .sav file format. See here for details about survey dataset formatting. Note that some data variables are not included in public releases to protect the privacy of survey respondents. Release of open-ended questions may be delayed while they are coded.

Are data available by state, congressional district or another geographical region?

At this time, if you are interested in analyzing data by geographic location, please use the Ask an Analyst feature to contact the team for assistance. Select geographic variables may be added to the tool at a future date.

Does Pew Research Center have other data on the 2020 presidential election?

Yes. American News Pathways is just one component of Pew Research Center’s larger U.S. election research portfolio:

  • To access all of Pew Research Center’s 2020 election-related publications, visit our Election 2020 hub.
  • Sign up to receive the Center’s newsletter featuring our latest research on the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
  • Read an explainer post by Pew Research Center President Michael Dimock describing how the Center is approaching its election research in 2020.

What content can I expect from the Pathways project throughout the year?

We’ll be releasing short, periodic analyses via email alert every Wednesday at 10 a.m. Eastern. Analyses will focus on how people’s media habits and attitudes relate to what they hear, perceive and know about the election. Visit our project’s landing page to access our digital tool and datasets. The tool will be updated about every other month. Check out our landing page regularly for data snapshots and other key findings along the way.

Questions about getting help

Where can I sign up to receive alerts about new American News Pathways releases?

You can sign up to receive alerts about the latest Pathways data releases and timely analyses on the Pathways landing page. You can also email Hannah Klein (hklein@pewresearch.org) to receive these alerts.

You may contact Hannah to unsubscribe from these alerts at any time.

If you’re a reporter who regularly receives our press releases, these periodic Pathways alerts will be in addition to the other content you’re receiving from us. Unsubscribing from these alerts will not affect your ability to receive future Pew Research Center press releases.

I’m a reporter used to receiving Pew Research Center content early, under embargo. Why don’t I receive early notice about each Pathways analysis?

Because the American News Pathways project is yearlong with periodic releases, we are publishing each analysis for immediate release, and will be notifying you through an email alert. (Sign up on the Pathways landing page or email Hannah Klein at hklein@pewresearch.org, if you are not already receiving it.) Pathways alerts will come on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. Eastern each week so that you can plan for it. Furthermore, there will be much more data available via the tool and datasets than we will be able to analyze in our periodic releases.

Where can I request an interview or briefing with a Pew Research Center expert about American News Pathways?

Pew Research Center places heavy emphasis on providing journalists with timely information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world, and being available to discuss or explain the research.

Media or briefing inquiries about the project should be directed to Hannah Klein (202-419-4567, hklein@pewresearch.org), with your deadline specified.

You can also contact Rachel Weisel (rweisel@pewresearch.org) or the communications team (info@pewresearch.org, 202-419-4372).

I’m a reporter. How can my newsroom benefit from using American News Pathways data?

You and your colleagues will be able to access data about Americans’ news consumption habits, news attitudes, news knowledge and attitudes about the U.S. presidential election regularly throughout 2020, without waiting for major report releases. Our publicly available data can be used to conduct unique analyses about news consumption and the election on a range of timely topics and to provide context for your next article. To learn more about accessing Pathways data through our online tool and datasets, click here.

In the coming months, the Center is planning to host workshops for journalists and newsroom staff interested in learning more about American News Pathways. Contact Hannah Klein (hklein@pewresearch.org) if you or your newsroom is interested in such a workshop here or in a briefing at your newsroom. Note that we are currently working remotely due to the novel Coronavirus outbreak, but our experts are still able to offer virtual briefings. Please reach out for more information.

There will be plenty of new data for you to dig through over the course of the year. We hope you’ll conduct your own analyses.

Where can I request additional data and ask questions about the online data tool?

Click on “Ask an Analyst” buttons or links to submit questions about the American News Pathways project or request additional data. We have analysts on hand to help answer your questions. We recommend using Ask an Analyst to request data, ask questions about using the tool, suggest future survey questions or ask for details about our survey methodology.

We’ll do our best to accommodate your request in a timely manner. If you’re a reporter, be sure to specify your deadline. You can access the Ask an Analyst feature from our Pathways landing page, our data tool page and in each of our alerts.

The online tool or dataset is not working properly. Can you help?

Click on “Ask an Analyst” buttons or links to report any technical issues you encounter.

Please note that pewresearch.org no longer supports Internet Explorer. Switching to another web browser to use the data tool is strongly recommended.

How do I read the results of the tables in the online data tool?

The tables in the data tool should be read horizontally, meaning the numbers add up to 100% across each row.

See the user guide for additional details on using the online data tool. If you need additional help, contact the team through Ask an Analyst.

How often is the data in the online tool updated and how will I know?

The online data tool will be updated as soon as possible after each survey in the American News Pathways project. New questions will be added about every other month.

Alerts will indicate when new survey questions have been added to the data tool. You can also sign up for these alerts on the Pathways landing page.

Will your online tool show trend data, or only the most recent results?

As new surveys are added to the tool throughout 2020, new and updated questions will appear at top of list of questions on the left. Older questions will be placed lower in the list.

How do I find data for questions asked on more than one survey?

Some questions will be asked more than once during the American News Pathways project between the fall 2019 and the end of 2020. The data tool will include every time questions are asked in the American News Pathways data tool.

The most recent data initially appears when a question is selected. If a question has been asked multiple times, at the bottom of the screen there will be a sentence reading, “This question was asked on multiple surveys. Showing data from survey concluded on [DATE].” The survey end date and the triangle to its right are a drop-down box. By clicking on the date, end dates for previous surveys will appear and can be selected to analyze that data.

Questions about methodology

Where can I find the American News Pathways methodology?

Links to the methodologies for each survey in American News Pathways can be found in the list below. All survey data for American News Pathways comes from Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), which is the Center’s nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults. Interviews are conducted online for all participants. Participants who do not have internet access are provided with a tablet and internet service. For more details about the ATP, visit here.

As part of the American News Pathways project, the Center will interview the same approximately 12,000 U.S. adults over the course of the year to track news views and habits during the 2020 election.

The American News Pathway methodology is available here.

What are the margins of error for the variables in the data tool?

The following table shows the error attributable to sampling that would be expected at the 95% level of confidence for the media habit variables and demographic groups in the data tool:

How did you decide which news outlets to feature in your analyses?

The 30 sources included in this project were chosen so that respondents were asked about a range of news media across different platforms (e.g., television, print, radio, internet). Audience size, topic areas covered and relevance to the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections were also considered. More details on how these outlets were selected is available here.

How did you determine the ideological composition of news outlets’ audiences?

Each of the 30 news outlets included in the American News Pathways project is grouped according to the ideological composition of its audience. This grouping is based on the ratio of the proportion of the audience who self-identify as liberal Democrats (including independents who lean Democrat) to the proportion that identify as conservative Republicans (including independents who lean Republican).

The survey asked respondents to indicate whether they got “political and election news” from 30 national news outlet in the past week. An outlet is considered to have a left-leaning audience if the proportion of all audience members that identify as liberal Democrats is at least two-thirds higher than the proportion that identify as conservative Republicans. Alternatively, an outlet is considered to have a right-leaning audience if the proportion of all audience members that identify as conservative Republicans is at least two-thirds higher than the proportion that identify as liberal Democrats. And an outlet is classified as having a mixed audience if neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans make up at least two-thirds more of the audience than the other.

Data for classifying the ideological composition of news outlets comes from the first survey of the American News Pathways project, conducted Oct. 29-Nov. 11, 2019, among 12,043 U.S. adults.

Outlet by ideological profile of audience

What do the news diets by party groupings mean?

News diets by partyThe variable “News diets of each party” in the online tool groups respondents by party identification and the outlets they turned to for political and election news in the past week. Respondents were asked:

  • Their party identification (or which party they lean to, if they do not identify with one); and
  • Which of 30 outlets they got political and election news from in the past week.

News outlets’ audiences were defined as left-leaning, right-leaning or mixed based on the ideological composition of their audiences. See here for details on grouping outlets by the ideological composition of their audiences.

Each party is divided into three groups (for a total of six across both parties): those who consume only news sources whose audiences tend to align with the party and its ideology (e.g., Rep/Lean Rep who only get news from outlets with right-leaning audiences); those who consume news from outlets whose audiences tend to align with the party and its ideology plus outlets with politically different audiences (e.g., Rep/Lean Rep who get news from outlets with right-leaning plus left-leaning or mixed audiences); and those who do not get news from outlets whose audiences align with the party but do get news from outlets with politically mixed audiences, or whose audiences’ partisanship and ideology tends to align with the other party (e.g., Rep/Lean Rep who only get news from outlets with politically mixed or left-leaning audiences). Note that “Lean Rep” refers to independents who lean Republican, and similarly, “Lean Dem” refers to Democratic-leaning independents.

An additional group includes members of either party plus those who do not lean toward a party who got no political news from any of the 30 outlets asked about. (The 3% of all adults who do not lean toward a party but got political news from at least one of the 30 outlets is not a large enough sample to reliably include in the analysis.)

The detailed descriptions of each category:

  • Rep: Only outlets with right-leaning audiences – Republicans and Republican leaners who get political and election news from only those outlets with right-leaning audiences.
  • Rep: Outlets with right and other audiences – Republicans and Republican leaners who get political and election news from other outlets (with mixed or left-leaning audiences) in addition to those with right-leaning audiences.
  • Rep: Only outlets without right audiences – Republicans and Republican leaners who get political and election news from none of those outlets with right-leaning audiences (but do get news from those outlets with mixed or left-leaning audiences).
  • Dem: Only outlets with left-leaning audiences – Democrats and Democratic leaners who get political and election news from only those outlets with left-leaning audiences.
  • Dem: Outlets with left and other audiences – Democrats and Democratic leaners who get political and election news from other outlets (with mixed or right-leaning audiences) in addition to those with left-leaning audiences.
  • Dem: Only outlets without left audiences – Democrats and Democratic leaners who get political and election news only from none of those outlets with left-leaning audiences (but do get news from those outlets with mixed or right-leaning audiences).
  • Either party: None of these outlets – Respondents from either party (plus those who refused to lean toward a party) who do not get political or election news from any of the 30 sources asked about in the survey.

How did you measure election news engagement?

Election news engagementThe variable “Election news engagement” in the online tool gauges respondents’ involvement with election news, based on two separate indicators:

  1. Following political and election news very or somewhat closely
  2. Saying you tend to “lead the conversation more than listen” when talking about political and election news.

Respondents who refused any of these questions are excluded.

The detailed descriptions of each category are as follows:

  • Election news influencers – Both follow political and election news very or somewhat closely and tend to lead conversations about political and election news.
  • Election news bystanders – Either follow political and election news very or somewhat closely or tend to lead conversations about political and election news.
  • Checked out of election news – Follow political and election news not too or not at all closely and tends to listen to conversations or not have those conversations at all.

How did you measure digital savviness?

The variable “Digital savviness” in the online tool is a measure level of use and comfort with digital technologies. It is based on responses to two questions:

  1. Reporting using the internet at least multiple times a day
  2. Being very confident in one’s ability to use electronic devices.

Respondents who refused any of these questions are excluded.

The detailed descriptions of each category are as follows:

  • The digitally savvy – Both use the internet multiple times a day and are very confident in their ability to use digital devices
  • Digital dabblers – Either use the internet multiple times a day or are very confident in their ability to use digital devices (but not both)
  • The digitally disengaged – Do not use the internet multiple times a day and are not very confident in their ability to use digital devices

How did you measure main source of election news?

Main source of election newsThe variable “Main source of election news” in the online tool is the news outlet that respondents identify as where they turn most often for political and election news.

Respondents were asked in an open-ended question to specify “the specific news organization or source” they use the most. Researchers grouped these responses together by brand; for example, “NY Times,” “NYT” and “nytimes.com” all counted as indicating The New York Times.

How did you measure platform used for news?

Platform used for newsThe variable “Platform used for news” in the online tool reports the most common news platform that respondents use to get political and election news. Respondents were given a predetermined set of news platforms: print, radio, local TV, network TV, cable TV, social media, and websites or apps.

How did you measure trust in media by party?

Trust in media by partyThe variable “Trust in media by party” in the online tool combines political party affiliation with how much respondents trust the information they get from “national news organizations.” The variable has four categories:

  • Republicans who trust the media – Republicans and Republican leaners who say they trust the information they get from the national news media “a lot” or “some.”
  • Republicans who don’t trust the media – Republicans and Republican leaners who say they trust the information they get from the national news media “not too much” or “not at all.”
  • Democrats who trust the media – Democrats and Democratic leaners who say they trust the information they get from the national news media “a lot” or “some.”
  • Democrats who don’t trust the media – Democrats and Democratic leaners who say they trust the information they get from the national news media “not too much” or “not at all.”

How did you measure overall political knowledge?

Political knowledge indexThe “overall political knowledge” index gauges respondents’ knowledge of politics and current events. It is based on nine questions (correct answers in parentheses):

  1. Which party has a majority in the U.S. Senate (Republican Party)
  2. Whether the U.S. federal budget deficit has gone up, down or stayed the same since Donald Trump took office (gone up)
  3. Whether the unemployment rate in the U.S. has gone up, down or stayed the same since Donald Trump took office (gone down)
  4. Whether tariffs in the U.S. have generally increased, decreased or stayed the same since Donald Trump took office (increased)
  5. What determines the number of votes a state has in the Electoral College (the number of seats the state has in the U.S. House and Senate)
  6. Which party is generally more supportive of reducing the size and power of the federal government (Republican Party)
  7. Which party is generally more supportive of increasing taxes on higher income people (Democratic Party)
  8. Which party is generally more supportive of restricting access to abortion (Republican Party)
  9. Which party is generally more supportive of creating a way for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to eventually become citizens (Democratic Party)

Respondents who refused to give an answer to any of these questions are excluded. “Not sure” responses are coded as incorrect. Correct answers are as of October 2019.

The detailed descriptions of each category are as follows:

  • High political knowledge – Answered 8-9 out of 9 questions correctly
  • Middle political knowledge – Answered 6-7 out of 9 questions correctly
  • Low political knowledge – Answered 0-5 out of 9 questions correctly