Comparing Estimates of News Consumption from Survey and Passively collected Behavioral Data

37 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2020 Last revised: 27 Jan 2021

See all articles by Tobias Konitzer

Tobias Konitzer

Stanford University

Jennifer Allen

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Stephanie Eckman

RTI International

Baird Howland

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Markus M. Mobius

Microsoft Corporation - Microsoft Research New England; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Information; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

David M. Rothschild

Microsoft Research

Duncan Watts

University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: March 4, 2020

Abstract

Surveys are a vital tool for understanding public opinion and knowledge, but they can also yield biased estimates of behavior. Here we explore a popular and important behavior that is frequently measured in public opinion surveys: news consumption. Previous studies have shown that television news consumption is consistently overreported in surveys relative to passively collected behavioral data. We validate these earlier findings, showing that they continue to hold despite large shifts in news consumption habits over time, while also adding some new nuance regarding question wording. We extend these findings to survey reports of online and social media news consumption, with respect both to levels and trends. Third, we demonstrate the usefulness of passively collected data for measuring a quantity such as “consuming news” for which different researchers might reasonably choose different definitions. Finally, recognizing that passively collected data suffers from its own limitations, we outline a framework for using a mix of passively collected behavioral and survey-generated attitudinal data to accurately estimate consumption of news and related effects on public opinion and knowledge, conditional on media consumption.

Keywords: Survey Research, Behavioral Data, News Consumption

Suggested Citation

Konitzer, Tobias and Allen, Jennifer and Eckman, Stephanie and Howland, Baird and Mobius, Markus M. and Rothschild, David M. and Watts, Duncan, Comparing Estimates of News Consumption from Survey and Passively collected Behavioral Data (March 4, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3548690 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3548690

Tobias Konitzer

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Jennifer Allen

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Stephanie Eckman

RTI International ( email )

PO Box 12194
Washington, DC 20036-3209
United States

Baird Howland

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Markus M. Mobius

Microsoft Corporation - Microsoft Research New England ( email )

One Memorial Drive, 12th Floor
Office 12062
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.markusmobius.org

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Information ( email )

304 West Hall
550 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1092
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.markusmobius.org

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.markusmobius.org

David M. Rothschild (Contact Author)

Microsoft Research ( email )

641 6th Ave., 7th Floor
New York, NY 10011
United States

HOME PAGE: http://researchdmr.com/

Duncan Watts

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA
United States
2155733240 (Phone)
19104-6228 (Fax)

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