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Internet Growing as Political News Source in Wyoming

April 2, 2015

Increasing numbers of Wyoming residents say the Internet is their leading source of political information, according to a University of Wyoming survey.

Since the question was first asked in 1974, television has consistently been mentioned as the prime source of political information, followed by newspapers and radio. Since 2006, the Internet has gained on the other three media, especially newspapers, as a major source of political information. 

Six percent of respondents indicated that the Internet was their primary source in that year. This has grown in every subsequent election survey and, just before the 2014 general election, nearly 1 in 5 Wyomingites said their main source of political information was the Internet.

Not unexpectedly, use of the Internet varies considerably by age. About one-third of those respondents under 30 cited the Internet as their most important source of political information. For this younger group, the Internet is more important than TV, newspapers or the radio. On the other hand, for those 65 and over, only 1 in 20 listed the Internet as their major source of political information.

Preferences also vary significantly by gender. Men were more likely to say the Internet was their most important source than were women. Women, much more frequently, indicated that television and newspapers were their most important source.

“The Internet, of course, provides users with a multitude of sources of political information,” says Oliver Walter, emeritus professor of political science at UW. “Most traditional sources such as television and newspapers have their own websites, but it is far easier to access Internet websites with very distinctive political information.”

From its inception in 1972, the UW election-year survey has asked respondents to characterize their political ideology. In 2014, those who viewed themselves either as extreme liberals or extreme conservatives were significantly more likely to designate the Internet as their most important source of information than those who viewed themselves as more politically moderate.

“It may very well be that the strongest political ideologies prefer the Internet because it permits them to access information that corresponds to their strongly held views, thus adding to political polarization that has occurred in the past decade,” Walter says.

The statewide telephone survey of 768 Wyoming residents was conducted in October by UW’s Survey Research Center and was sponsored by the Department of Political Science, Wyoming Public Radio and the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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