National Newspaper Association’s annual readership survey confirms community newspaper readers are voters

by Virginia Press Staff |October 3rd, 2019

Newspaper readers are voters, and the National Newspaper Association’s annual readership survey of more than 1,000 people from rural and urban communities across the country once again validated that point.

The survey conducted annually for NNA by Susquehanna Polling and Research of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania found that 85% of community newspaper readers said they are “very likely” to vote in elections either later this year or in 2020, compared to 73% of non-readers.

Further, respondents rated community newspapers as the most trusted source of information about candidates running for public office.

On a scale of 1 to 10, respondents rated how much they trusted a source’s information when it came to learning about candidates for public office. (A score of “1” means you don’t trust them at all, while 10 means you trust them a lot.)

  • Community newspapers rated an average of 5.77 — 6.23 among readers — topping all other information mediums:
  • National network TV news – 5.13
  • Cable TV news shows – 4.60
  • Talk radio or satellite radio programs – 4.31
  • Metropolitan newspapers that cover major cities and suburbs – 4.2
  • Direct mailings from candidates or political parties – 3.73
  • Facebook or Twitter – 2.92

When it comes to seeking out information about candidates for public office, 68% of respondents turn to national network TV news “very or somewhat often,” closely followed by community newspapers (61%) and cable TV news programs (58%). Less than half of the respondents seek out mailings from candidates or political parties (42%), talk radio or satellite radio news program (38%), metropolitan newspapers that cover major cities and suburbs (33%) and Facebook or Twitter (29%) for information.

“Overall, great news for local community newspapers,” said NNA Vice President Matt Adelman, publisher of the Douglas (Wyoming) Budget. “[The results] show Facebook and even direct mail have far less impact and readership than the political consultants insist, especially on the trustworthy scale where our newspapers rank about even with national news programs, but far ahead of the rest of the pack.”

Both readers and non-readers also think it is important for the public to have access to public notices from local governments — community newspaper readers more so with an average rating 8.23 on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 representing the highest) and 7.88 for non-readers.

Newspapers are also the leading source for shopping decisions and advertising content. For instance, 79% of respondents agree community newspapers “provide valuable local shopping and advertising information.” Further, 24% of respondents rate newspapers as their go-to source for local purchasing decisions, beating out all other mediums:

  • Social media platforms: 17%
  • Direct mailings: 14%
  • In store promotions: 12%
  • Local TV stations 10%
  • Radio ads: 4%
  • Cable TV ads: 2%
  • Metro newspapers: 1%

It’s important to note that the results were mixed among respondents when polled about the effectiveness of online advertising: “How often do you notice Google ads or other advertising banners when you are reviewing content on websites — always, some of the time, occasionally or not at all?” “Not at all” was the most popular answer from 28% of respondents, followed by “always” from 26%, 22% “some of the time” and 21% “occasionally.”

Readership levels are also holding over the years. Static with last year, 64% of survey respondents said they read a community newspaper either in print (43%) or online (6%) (15% reading both). Last year’s data was a small decline from 67% in 2017.

To help members determine if the online pay–per–article method might be effective, the survey asked, “Would you be willing to pay per article, for instance 50 cents per article, to have access to news stories on your favorite internet websites or newspapers?” Eighty-nine percent of respondents said no, 5% said yes, 5% were undecided and 1% declined to answer.

House ads for NNA member newspapers, as well as survey results, can be downloaded from 

This article was written by Kate Richardson, the managing editor of Publisher’s Auxiliary and associate director of the National Newspaper Association. Email her at [email protected].