Digital Divide Fades Among Millennial Social Media & News Consumers -- Study
Latinos and black millennials are technologically connected and consume social media and news content at similar levels to their White counterparts and the national average, according to a new poll by the American Press Institute and The Associated Press.
The "digital divide," a decades-long concern that minorities would not have access to the technological world at the same level as whites and the more affluent, appears to be fading from the picture -- at least for the young generation, according to the API and AP's most recent survey. The survey involved a random sample of 1,045 millennials, including 163 African-Americans and 162 Latinos, interviewed between January and February this year.
The study found that millennials, or those aged 18 to 34, are consuming news and social media at similar rates, no matter their ethnic background. The poll also may allay fears that the millennial generation would be the first "newsless" one, unconcerned or even ignorant about current event.
In contrast to those concerns, the API/AP poll found that 64 percent of millennials read and watched news online "regularly," while 81 percent said they consume news at least once per week.
How they get their news, however, might still be concerning to some. The vast majority responded that Facebook was the primary way to get news and information.
Search engines were still popular methods of getting news and information as well, but the habit of going directly to a news site to browse -- the digital analogue of how one might have once bought one company's newspaper on the street corner -- seems to be following those physical newspapers into oblivion.
The study found that blacks' and Latinos' use of technology, specifically mobile Internet and social media, to get news and information was in keeping with all other millennials, suggesting that for newsies, the "digital divide" may no longer be a threat.
"People of color are very wired and just as adept in using technology," said executive director of the American Press Institute, Tom Rosenstiel, in the AP's story on the poll. "If you want a subject that hasn't been covered in the mainstream, millennials have found ways to get at that information through community sharing more than traditional ways. The way they get news is heavily influenced by topic."
However, there were some differences between millennials of different backgrounds, including in the use of sometimes-surprising secondary digital news sources. For example, Latinos are more likely to go to YouTube for news (38 percent) compared to African Americans and white millennials (33 percent and 20 percent, respectively).
Rosenstiel said that YouTube's popularity as a news source involves the ability to for users to be involved in the media conversation without obstacles or so-called "gatekeepers."
"We see topics that aren't mainstream finding a big audience -- a lot of gamers, comedy, news commentary. As something goes mainstream, young people look for new channels to exercise some control," he said
Similarly seen as "filter-free" -- unless you're literally talking about the sepia-toned images -- Instagram was a prominent standout news and information source for black millennials (45 percent) compared to Latinos and whites, who used the Facebook-owned photo sharing service at respective rates of 30 percent and 19 percent.
Specific motivations for consuming news on social media sometimes differed depending on ethnicity as well, the study found.
For example, consuming news because "it helps me decide where I stand on things" was important to 54 percent of white millennials, while only 36 percent of Latinos and 38 percent of blacks responded the same way.
Meanwhile, 53 percent of African-American millennials answered, "It helps me feel connected to my community," while only 44 percent of whites and 39 percent of Latinos felt the same way.
Finally, in what is the most encouraging statistic from the API/AP's study:
The largest majorities, across the spectrum, for all millennials said the most important reason they keep up on the news was because "it helps me stay informed to be a better citizen."
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