Study Reveals Montana Media Usage

July 01, 2019

MISSOULA – 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% of Montanans who share news do so to influence or educate people. This figure jumped from 43% 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% more Democrats and 20% 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% identified as Republican. The study found that 76% 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%) 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% of Montanans rating them absolutely or mostly credible.

To view the full study findings, visit the Greater Montana Foundation’s website at http://greatermontana.org/. A detailed set of results with cross-tabulations also is online at http://www.bber.umt.edu/ and.

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Methods Summary: The 2019 survey was a random, address-based sample of adult Montana residents. It was administered February through March 2019 by mail and the internet. BBER obtained 579 survey completions. The response rate was 36% (AAPOR 2016, RR 3). The sampling error rate is +/- 4%. The survey data are weighted by gender, age, education, urban vs. rural, and political party using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Gallup Inc. The sample was purchased from Dynata Inc. The survey was administered by UM BBER with questionnaire and analytical assistance from Nicole McCleskey of Public Opinion Strategies, which administers the Wall Street Journal-NBC News Poll. Full question wording may be obtained by emailing john.baldridge@umontana.edu.

Contact: John Baldridge, director of survey research, UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research, 406-243-2745, john.baldridge@umontana.edu; Bill Whitsitt, past chairman/survey project lead, Greater Montana Foundation, 406-309-0890, wfwhitsitt@aol.com.