With the proliferation of new media and communication gadgets, people are exposed to an endless stream of news and information from a variety of sources. Is this constant bombardment and availability of news and information skewing our view of society?
Winthrop University Political Science professor Dr. Scott Huffmon says finding the answer to that question will require further academic research. In fact, Huffmon says he plans on doing an in-depth study on media consumption in the future.
For now, Huffmon says the responses in the recent Winthrop Poll he directs may offer a clue. In a poll of 981 adults in South Carolina taken in mid-April, 63 percent said they believe violent crime has increased over the last 30 years and 63 percent believe that teen pregnancy is on the increase.
Huffmon says actually both are on the decline. “Is there a connection between news consumption and news source, and whether or not the incorrect belief persist about violent crime and teen pregnancy? Because both are down. The number of violent crimes and teen pregnancies are down.”
The decline is based on information from the Justice Department’s Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the poll, 23 percent of respondents said that their main source of news was the internet, which Huffmon found somewhat surprising. “This goes along with something PEW Research did a while back that talks about people with desktops, laptops, iPads, and smartphones. It sort of coordinated how much information people get off the internet versus how many devices they have and we are beginning to see that here in South Carolina.”
24 percent said their main source of news was national cable television, while 21 percent said local television. 15 percent said national network TV, but only 5.2 percent said newspapers.
Huffmon says other research has shown that people do gravitate toward traditional media sources, which is why he says it’s important that traditional media sources branch out into other sources including social media. “As other research has shown what a lot of people are doing with the internet is they’re using a Twitter link or a link from Facebook, but they are going to a traditional media source. So it is an interesting take on the evolution of the news business in the 21st century. “