Another way journalists might describe a goal of journalism is to help people live better lives in their communities.
To further understand the relationship between the public and the press, we wanted to see how views of where people lived, and their agency within it, related to interactions with news.
As local news sources continue to face difficulty in today’s digital and economic environment, we were particularly curious about how people viewed this in context of their community and country.
The findings show many Americans feel at least somewhat qualified to talk about important issues in the news, and that they have at least some agency to make things better in their community and country.
More detailed findings on this big picture are below. The next section, however, explores differences in who feels they can make an impact, and who is less likely to say so.
Most Americans feel at least somewhat qualified to talk with family and friends about important issues in the news, but few feel very qualified.
Seventy-four percent of Americans report feeling at least somewhat qualified to participate in discussions with friends and family about important issues in the news, but only 34 percent feel very or extremely qualified.
Men (38 percent) are more likely than women (30 percent) to believe they are qualified to discuss important issues in the news.
Adults with more formal education also feel better qualified. Forty-eight percent of those with a college degree feel very qualified to discuss important issues compared with 35 percent of those with some college education and 19 percent of those with a high school degree.
Most adults report understanding important issues, but people are more likely to say they understand national issues than local ones.
Seventy-eight percent of adults feel they understand important issues facing the U.S. at least somewhat well, including 37 percent who say very or extremely well. Only 18 percent of Americans think they understand the issues only a little and 3 percent say they don’t at all understand the issues.
Americans are less likely to report understanding local issues, but still 72 percent say they at least somewhat understand issues facing their community, including 28 percent who understand them very or extremely well. In contrast, 22 percent say they understand local issues a little and 6 percent report not understanding them at all.
A majority of people report a similar level of understanding about national and local issues, but there are some who know more about local issues and others who say they know more about national issues.
Fifty-six percent say they understand neither local nor national issues very well while 21 percent say they understand both very well. Sixteen percent of individuals feel that they understand the issues facing the country very or extremely well, but understand the issues facing their community less well. In contrast, 7 percent report understanding their community issues very or extremely well and the country’s issues less well.
Many Americans believe they can make a larger difference in their community than in the country overall.
Nearly 9 in 10 people say they can make their community a better place to live, including 1 in 10 who say they can make a big impact and 3 in 10 who believe they can make a moderate impact. Forty-seven percent believe they can make a small impact in their community and 12 percent don’t think they can make any impact.
Americans tend to believe they can make less of an impact in making their country a better place to live than their community. Seven percent believe they can make a big impact on their country, 20 percent say moderate impact, 53 percent say small impact, and 19 percent believe they can’t have any impact.