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2019 Reader Survey Results: A Loyal Audience Craving Government Coverage

A majority of the over 3,500 respondents have been reading us for more than a year and are also interested in seeing us investigate health care, the environment and inequality.

The results are in for this year’s ProPublica reader survey. Many thanks to the over 3,500 people who responded to this unscientific poll.

How you primarily get your national news has continued its yearslong trend toward the web, and it now stands at 80%, compared with 77% last year. The latest shift seems to have come at the expense of television, with only 7% of you using that medium as your primary source for national news, a 4% drop from last year, perhaps a reflection of this not being an election year. For local news, television is more popular, with 20% of you primarily tuning in to a local network affiliate to stay informed.

This year, we wondered how long our readers have been with us. Thirteen percent of you are new to ProPublica’s work. Forty-two percent have been reading our work for one to two years, 32% for three to five years and 13% for over five years. We also asked how often you read ProPublica’s stories. Thirty-four percent of survey respondents reported being readers pretty much every day. Forty-eight percent read us once a week or so, 14% of you read our work once a month and 4% read us less often than that.

As for what topics you’re most interested in seeing us investigate, the federal government got the highest number of votes: 68%. Close behind that were health care, the environment and inequality, all earning around 60% levels of high interest. Among all aspects of ProPublica’s work, 80% of you felt that “exposing wrongdoing” was the most valuable journalism we provide.

Your own political leaning has remained almost exactly the same as last year. Seven percent of you reported being conservative, 6% moderately so. Eighty-eight percent of you reported being liberal, 47% moderately so. (Gallup’s latest report is that 35% of Americans describe themselves as conservatives and 25% as liberals.) How you view our reporting, however, has changed a bit. Last year, 40% of you thought that our work was non-ideological; this year, that jumped up to 51%. We’re glad so many of you think so, as we intend our work to be non-ideological.

The overall demographics of our readers are very similar to what you reported last year. For gender, the split of our readers remains very close to even, with 49% female and 51% male. Last year, it was flipped at 51% female and 49% male. You continue to be a highly educated group, with fully 86% of you having a college degree, 49% holding a postgraduate degree. Income, too, is similar to last year, with 34% of you earning $50,000 to $100,000 and 43% earning over $100,000. Sixty-four percent of survey respondents report being older than 55, 24% are 35 to 54 years old and 12% are younger than 35. This year, 84% report being non-Hispanic white (it was 82% last year), 2% black or African American, 4% Latinx or Hispanic, 2% East Asian or Asian American and 1% or less Native American, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern or Arab American. Seven percent of respondents preferred not to answer regarding their race.

We’re grateful for everyone who took the time to fill out this year’s survey. While unscientific, these results are useful to us as we try to understand who you are, who we are not yet reaching, what you value about ProPublica and how we can better serve you.

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