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The “backfire effect” is mostly a myth, a broad look at the research suggests
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Sept. 25, 2015, 6 a.m.
Audience & Social

Millennials tend to get lumped into a big group when it comes to hand-wringing about their news consumption habits. But (shocker) defining the entire group of people born between 1980 and 1998 as a “monolithic group that doesn’t change with age and different circumstances” doesn’t really make sense, according to a new report from the Media Insight Project.

The report, out Friday, is a collaboration between The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute. The researchers found that “millennials’ news and Internet habits fall into four distinct types.”

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 9.12.31 PM

Here are the essential characteristics of each of the four groups, as the report defines them:

The Unattached
— Ages 18–24, they “get their news and information mostly by just bumping into it.”
— Less than a third (31 percent) pay for a news subscription; 17 percent use a news subscription paid for by someone else.
— They “go online primarily for entertainment activities such as playing games or streaming music and movies.”

The Explorers
— Also ages 18–24, but they “actively seek out news and information.”
— Forty-four percent pay for a news subscription; 17 percent use a news subscription paid for by someone else.
— They “are interested in news and are more active in pursuing it online.”

The Distracted
— They are older, ages 25–34, “have begun to have families and are part of the middle class.”
— Forty percent pay for a news subscription; 12 percent use a news subscription paid for by someone else.
— They’re unlikely to “actively seek out” news and information online, but they do “follow a variety of lifestyle and news-you-can-use topics that show direct relevance to their jobs, their families, or solving problems in their personal lives.”

The Activists
— They are also older, ages 25–34, but more likely than “The Distracted” to “actively seek out news and information.”
— Fifty-one percent pay for a news subscription; seven percent use a news subscription paid for by someone else.
— They are “the only group that is a majority non-white.”

Some of this seems a little obvious — divide the Millennial generation in half by age; in each half, some are interested in online news and some aren’t — but it’s interesting to see who pays for news and who is still relying on someone else’s subscription (probably a parent’s) for it.

The researchers surveyed 1,045 adults between the ages of 18 and 34. The full report is here.

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