Journalism in the Public Interest

Results of Our 2013 Reader Survey

We’ve got the results of ProPublica’s latest reader survey, fielded last week, and we wanted to share them with you.

We’ve got the results of ProPublica’s latest reader survey, fielded last week, and we wanted to share them with you.

Before turning to the results, many thanks to the 2,274 people who took the time to respond to the survey over just six days. The results are not scientific, but we do think they provide a meaningful reflection of the views and habits of our most committed readers.

Among the findings:

  • For all the growth of social media, mobile platforms and constant access (very much evident in the results, of course), there was also an important reminder that home PC’s remain the preferred way to consume long-form online journalism for a large plurality of respondents (68%);
  • The decline of legacy print may have plateaued a bit, at least for ProPublica readers. We began taking our surveys in 2008, the year we began publishing. When we asked that year about our readers’ primary source of national news, 57% said online. By 2010, it had risen to 60%, by 2011, 68%. This year it’s 67%, not a meaningful difference, but at least a pause in the trend. On the other end of the scale, print newspapers were the primary source for 21% in 2008, 18.5% in 2010, 13% in 2011 and 15% this year. Again, not such a significant shift as to mark a reversal, but still intriguing.

You still seem to like what we do, which we deeply appreciate. Fully 90% find the length of ProPublica stories “just right” (and the rest are almost exactly evenly split between wishing them longer and shorter). Nearly 78% approve of how often we post stories, and almost all of the rest wish we’d post more. Readers are most likely to look regularly at our longer features and investigations (88%), but almost half also look regularly at MuckReads links to investigations by other news organizations, and 42% look regularly at shorter stories and blog posts.

With respect to who you are, you remain a very impressive group. Fully 82% have a college degree, and more than half of these (47% of all readers) a graduate degree. More than one in eight live outside the U.S. The median household income is just below $75,000 (and this includes a substantial component of readers who are students or retired). Nearly one-third of you have a household net worth above half a million dollars. You’re actively on social media, with more than two-thirds on Facebook, and more than a third on each of LinkedIn and Twitter. Your median age remains in the 50s, but one in eight are under 35. Fully 60% are male and 40% female, which isn’t unusual for online news, but this is some progress from 62% male in 2011 and 64% in 2008.

As we have with previous surveys, we want to report on the question of ideology, one that comes up a lot in discussion of news organizations these days. The findings were consistent with those we’ve seen before. A substantial plurality of you (46%) consider ProPublica “non-ideological”—as we do. The rest are almost evenly split between seeing us as liberal (29%) and moderate (24%); very few regard us as conservative. This is at substantial variance from how you classify yourselves, with just 13% calling themselves “non-ideological” and 60% liberal, with 21% moderate; 5% of readers call themselves conservative. Presidential election exit polls last year showed voters self-described as 41% moderate, 35% conservative and 25% liberal.

Joyce hergenhan

Oct. 7, 2013, 2:31 p.m.

Thanks for sharing the results. Found them interesting.  So many times I fill out a survey… and never see the results.

Byard Pidgeon

Oct. 7, 2013, 2:35 p.m.

This part of the survey
“With respect to who you are, you remain a very impressive group. Fully 82% have a college degree, and more than half of these (47% of all readers) a graduate degree.”
is not something to be self congratulatory about.
What is shows is that the readership is massively UNrepresentative of the populace…of the voting populace.
Without reaching the unwashed masses, PP’s articles will do little good.

Thank you for sharing the results.  It’s sad so many don’t make the effort, nor take the time, to read your articles.  I look forward to them every day - no matter how busy I am.  An informed population is more watchful.

Byard is correct.  The U.S. Census Bureau says only 31% of U.S. adults (age 25+) have a Bachelor’s degree (jumps to 40% if you’re including Associate’s degree).  You’re missing too many people.  Perhaps your next survey should ask for suggestions about how to appeal to a more diverse population.

Yes! I prefer to read the news in normal print fonts rather than any tiny hand held computer, hand held tv or typewriter that you “text” with your thumbs. As the iphones , watches and other techno junk avails itself sadlyto the landfills as our eyes and Rx glasses get bigger and stronger Rxs to read that junk on those tiny pieces of S.

I love it when they follow up in the LOCAL and national NEWSPAPERS. I just LOVE IT. Especially when I’ve helped them out!

Curious how many of us are non-USA who read these articles.  As a Canadian, I ‘found’ Pro Publica after a story on “This American Life”, I wonder if there’s something in the numbers that shows the % of us who aren’t American but still very much enjoy and follow PP.

It is well to remember that it is/has been the “best and the brightest” that have been and are still taking this country into the outhouse!
(So much for “degreed individuals”)

You asked for age, sex, income, political views—but not race/ethnicity? Isn’t that an important metric? What are you doing to reach more diverse audiences?

Why would ProPublica have to appeal to a more diverse audience, as some respondents have suggested? Yes, I am over 50 and have a graduate degree. Why do I care that ProPublica isn’t reaching more people? Most Americans are content to play violent video games and zone out. They cannot be reached—by ProPublica or anyone else. I’m just glad that I found ProPublica and trust it as an unbiased news source. Why would I care that more people aren’t reading it when I read it and like it?

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