Survey methodology

This survey was conducted by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute (API) and The Associated Press‑NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey was conducted from February 18 through March 6, 2016. The survey was funded by API. Staff from API, NORC at the University of Chicago, and AP collaborated on all aspects of the study.

The Media Insight Project also received input on the study design and suggestions for the survey from industry experts in both academia and the media during a day‑long meeting in Washington D.C. on January 21, 2016.

Data were collected using the AmeriSpeak Panel, which is NORC’s probability‑based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. During the initial recruitment phase of the panel, randomly selected U.S. households were sampled with a known, nonzero probability of selection from the NORC National Sample Frame and then contacted by U.S. mail, email, telephone, and field interviewers (face‑to‑face).

Interviews for this survey were conducted, with adults age 18 and over representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Panel members were randomly drawn from the AmeriSpeak Panel, and 2,014 completed the survey — 1,603 via the web and 411 via telephone. The final stage completion rate is 40.3 percent, the weighted household panel response rate is 36.9 percent, and the weighted household panel retention rate is 94.7 percent, for a cumulative response rate of 14.1 percent.

The overall margin of sampling error is +/‑ 2.9 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level, including the design effect. The margin of sampling error may be higher for subgroups.

Respondents were offered a small monetary incentive for completing the survey ($2 or $4 depending on their initial panel recruitment). All interviews were conducted in English by professional interviewers who were carefully trained on the specific survey for this study.

Once the sample was selected and fielded, and all the study data had been collected and made final, a poststratification process was used to adjust for any survey nonresponse as well as any noncoverage or under‑ and over‑ sampling resulting from the study‑specific sample design. Poststratification variables included age, gender, Census division, race/ethnicity, and household phone status. The weighted data, which reflect the U.S. population of adults age 18 and over, were used for all analyses.

All analyses were conducted using STATA (version 14), which allows for adjustment of standard errors for complex sample designs. All differences reported between subgroups of the U.S. population are at the 95 percent level of statistical significance, meaning that there is only a 5 percent (or less) probability that the observed differences could be attributed to chance variation in sampling. Additionally, bivariate differences between subgroups are only reported when they also remain robust in a multivariate model controlling for other demographic, political, and socioeconomic covariates. A comprehensive listing of all study questions, complete with tabulations of top‑level results for each question, is available on the Media Insight Project’s website:

Qualitative research

Insight Strategy Group conducted the qualitative research in collaboration with staff from The Associated Press‑NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute.

The research included both ethnographic and focus group components. Thirty‑six news consumers between the ages of 18‑64 were recruited to participate in the ethnographic portion of the research. Focus Pointe Global recruited the participants based on what news topics they follow and how closely they follow such topics. Half of the participants were recruited from the Philadelphia area so that they could participate in the focus group portion of the research and the other half were recruited from across the country.

The participants were classified into three groups based on their age and topics they follow: 1) 18‑34‑ year‑olds who follow “hard” news topics such as politics, local news, crime or education (n=14); 2) 35‑64‑year‑olds who follow “hard” news topics such as politics, local news, crime or education (n=12); 3) 21‑64‑year‑olds who follow “lifestyle” news topics such as sports, celebrities, or entertainment (n=10).

Researchers examined participants’ news behaviors and attitudes around trust in news with Insight Strategy Group’s Mobile Moderator™ app and online platform. From February 24 through February 26, 2016, the participants completed a series of online activities that included sharing information about themselves and their news behavior, answering a series of open‑ended questions, and analyzing different aspects of real and hypothetical news stories.

Following the online activities, the 18 participants from the Philadelphia area took part in one of three news forum discussions on March 2, 2016, in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. Each news forum lasted about two hours and included six participants who had similar news behaviors. One group included 18‑34 year olds who follow hard news, one group included 35‑64‑year‑olds who follow hard news, and one group included 21‑64‑year‑olds who follow lifestyle news. During the discussions, a moderator asked the group members a wide range of questions about their news behavior and what led them to either gain or lose trust in different sources of news.

All of the participants received $150 for completing the online activities, and an additional $100 for the focus groups.

Contributing researchers

From the American Press Institute

Tom Rosenstiel
Jeff Sonderman
Kevin Loker
Meldon Jones
Laurie Beth Harris
Jane Elizabeth
Liz Worthington

From NORC at the University of Chicago

Jennifer Benz
David Sterrett
Trevor Tompson
Emily Alvarez
Dan Malato
Rebecca Reimer
Brian Kirchhoff
Jennifer Titus
Liz Kantor

From The Associated Press

Emily Swanson


The Media Insight Project would like to thank the following experts for providing helpful suggestions and feedback on the study design during a day‑long meeting on January 21, 2016 in Washington D.C.:

Joseph N. Cappella, University of Pennsylvania
Emilio Garcia‑Ruiz, The Washington Post
Lindsay Hoffman, University of Delaware
Sally Lehrman, Santa Clara University
Kevin Merida, ESPN
Mizell Stewart III, Journal Media Group
Margaret Sullivan, The New York Times
Ann E. Williams, Georgia State University
Amanda Zamora, ProPublica
Carla Zanoni, The Wall Street Journal

The views and findings in this report reflect those of the Media Insight Project, and may not reflect those of the experts.

About the Media Insight Project

The Media Insight Project is a collaboration of the American Press Institute and the AP‑NORC Center for Public Affairs Research with the objective of conducting high‑quality, innovative research meant to inform the news industry and the public about various important issues facing journalism and the news business. The Media Insight Project brings together the expertise of both organizations and their respective partners, and involves collaborations among key staff at API, NORC at the University of Chicago, and The Associated Press.

About the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

The AP‑NORC Center for Public Affairs Research taps into the power of social science research and the highest‑quality journalism to bring key information to people across the nation and throughout the world.

The Associated Press (AP) is the world’s essential news organization, bringing fast, unbiased news to all media platforms and formats.

NORC at the University of Chicago is one of the oldest and most respected, independent research institutions in the world.

The two organizations have established the AP‑NORC Center for Public Affairs Research to conduct, analyze, and distribute social science research in the public interest on newsworthy topics, and to use the power of journalism to tell the stories that research reveals.

The founding principles of the AP‑NORC Center include a mandate to preserve carefully and protect the scientific integrity and objectivity of NORC and the journalistic independence of AP. All work conducted by the Center conforms to the highest levels of scientific integrity to prevent any real or perceived bias in the research. All of the work of the Center is subject to review by its advisory committee to help ensure it meets these standards. The Center will publicize the results of all studies and make all datasets and study documentation available to scholars and the public.

Photo credits

Cover Photo:
Copyright: Danil Melekhin, iStockphoto
Stock photo ID: 23885941
Upload date: September 24, 2013

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