Montanans are increasing their news consumption and trust local news over national news sources, according to a new study by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana.
Sponsored by the Greater Montana Foundation, the 2019 News Media Preferences and Issues Study examined trends in Montana news consumption. It studied news media usage across Montana using the results of three surveys conducted by BBER in 2015, 2016 and 2019.
The study found that people consumed individual news sources more selectively and their views on news source credibility varied widely.
“The most interesting trends are that news sources have proliferated, either directly online or through social media, and that more Montanans are using their hand-held device to get their news,” said John Baldridge, BBER director of survey research. “Consumers also are using a wider variety of news sources – from internet, cable and local to radio and print.”
According to the 2019 study, 63 percent of Montanans who share news do so to influence or educate people. This figure jumped from 43 percent in 2016.
“The tendency for Montanans to select news sources that match their political preferences has increased,” Baldridge said.
The study found viewership in 2019 for CNN consisted of 23 percent more Democrats and 20 percent fewer Republicans than in 2015.
“There is a big divide over whom Montanans trust for news sources based on their political party identification,” Baldridge said.
Of the study respondents that said Fox News is their most trusted news source, 97 percent identified as Republican. The study found that 76 percent of Montanans who cited NPR as their most trusted news source identified as Democrats.
“The survey did a great job in capturing the range of people’s views of credibility of news sources,” Baldridge said.
Two-thirds of Montanans (66 percent) rate local news as being absolutely or mostly credible, followed by the viewers’ chosen websites and weekly local newspapers. The least credible news source was news from social media sites, with only 24 percent of Montanans rating them absolutely or mostly credible.