January 24, 2020

How to use Pew Research Center’s American News Pathways data tool

Pew Research Center’s yearlong American News Pathways project examines how Americans’ news habits and attitudes relate to what they hear, perceive and know about the 2020 U.S. presidential election and COVID-19.

At the project’s core is an interactive tool that lets users create custom tables so they can explore the Center’s survey questions. Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to use it. Note: Step 1 and Step 2 can be completed in either order.

Step 1: Select a media trait or demographic group.

Step 1: Select a media trait or demographic group. You can explore results among all U.S. adults, by news consumption habits or attitudes, or by demographic group, such as gender or age. Note: If you select a survey question before choosing a trait, a chart will appear showing responses among all U.S. adults by default.

Once a media trait or demographic group is selected, a definition will appear directly under the dropdown menu in gray text. For example, choosing the variable “Digital savviness” gives the names and definitions for each of the three subgroups within that variable: “The digitally savvy,” “Digital dabblers” and “The digitally disengaged.” The text also links to FAQs with more details, as well as instructions about how to read the data.

SStep 2: Select a survey question related to the 2020 U.S. presidential election.tep 2: Select a survey question related to the 2020 U.S. presidential election or COVID-19. You can explore topics by typing a key phrase into the search bar or by browsing the questions within the categories at left. Clicking on a topic expands it to display a list of survey questions about that topic. Click on a question to view the data.

A bar chart will then appear on the right. The full question wording, survey dates and other details about the question are displayed below the chart. For example, selecting the question “Trust in info from social media” displays the response options for that question, the share of respondents who chose each option, the full question wording, survey dates and other details.

The same data can also be viewed in a table of numbers. Under “Display as” at far right, click the “Bars” and “Table” buttons to toggle between views.

Step 3 (optional): Filter the data by political party.Step 3 (optional): Filter the data by political party. Use the dropdown menu labeled “Show among” to show the data for all U.S. adults, Democrat/Lean Dem or Republican/Lean Rep. (“Lean Dem” and “Lean Rep” are short for those who lean toward, but do not identify as, the Democratic or Republican Party, respectively.)

For example, the screenshot shows responses only among Republicans and Republican leaners to the question about trust in information from social media by the media trait digital savviness.

Step 4: Some charts are wider, so be sure to scroll to the right to see the full length of the chart. You’ll know you’ve reached the end of the chart if the last column shows the share of respondents who refused to answer.

Here’s an example of what the tool can tell you: Among Republicans and Republican leaners, 39% of digital dabblers say they trust the information they get from social media sites not at all, according to a November 2019 Pew Research Center survey.

Step 5: Explore the tool. You can also:

How to pull data from our API: The American News Pathways API allows users to directly access all of the data that is available in the online data tool. To access the API, please create an account. Once you have logged in, you will find a unique API authentication key and further instructions on how to access the Pathways API.

How to download survey datasets: To download an SPSS dataset of American News Pathways surveys, visit our datasets page. If you have never downloaded Pew Research Center datasets, you will need to register for an account. Click on the link “Register for one” at the top to create an account. If you have previously registered, enter your email address and password. Once logged in, select the dataset you want to download and follow the on-screen instructions. See this post for more on downloading our datasets.

How to tell when we’ve added new data to the tool: 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.