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Feb. 29, 2024, 10:25 a.m.
Audience & Social

How Black women get their political news matters for this election

A new study investigates the ways Black women use social media, TV news, and other sources to engage with politics.

In 1892, Ida B. Wells began editing the Memphis Free Speech, and used the newspaper to crusade against lynching. Her motto “Truth is mighty and will prevail” lives on in investigative journalism to this day. For the last two decades, many Black women have been lauded as the steadfast participation in the democratic process. Yet, as the paragons of democratic ideals, where do Black women get political information that educates and facilitates their involvement in the American political system?

We wanted to know how Black women engage with news today. We wanted to understand where Black women receive their news, how they form their opinions and policy priorities, and what they do with all that during elections. To find out, we recently completed a study that examines what media sources Black women frequent, how they engage with media and news, and how generation, education, and income shape their social media posting patterns.

Black Americans as a whole are more likely than other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. to get their news on TV, according to Pew research. That’s also true of Black women, who, we find, watch television news more than any other source. The majority of Black women do not post their political views on social media. For the women who do post, it’s mostly on Facebook.

Here’s our takeaway: There are key variations in how Black women consume political news and how they engage with this information. Politicos must take these variations into account when reaching out to younger and older and higher- and lower-resource Black women.

Why study Black women’s media consumption?

Polls indicate that Black Americans tend to distrust news sources because many believe that news organizations do not accurately cover their communities. This distrust remains despite new journalistic remedies since the 2020 “racial reckoning” after George Floyd’s murder. And this distrust means many Black Americans turn to social media to get news and to discuss politics, giving them more control over the information they receive, creating a safer space for political conversations, and offering an effective way of advocating for Black rights and raising awareness of Black issues.

Yet many studies often do not disaggregate by gender, failing to explore the extent of variation among Black Americans. Intragroup differences among Black women reveal even more detail about how media is consumed. Our study suggests the distinctions among Black women of different generations and socioeconomic backgrounds should be taken into consideration when developing strategies to reach Black female voters. Learning more about these differences can help politicians and advocacy groups better tailor their messages to Black women. This knowledge can also help inform policies to better support Black women.

Political news: TV or internet?

Because political news is not objective or simply fact-based, social scientists routinely find that it matters whether individuals get their news from television, radio, newspapers, or the internet — and specifically, social media. In our study, we find that 54% of Black women go to television news as a primary source, 26% browse the internet as a primary source, and 11% watch television talk shows. The remainder consult either radio or newspapers.

Recently, the Pew Research Center studied Black Americans’ news consumption, finding similar patterns. Not all Black people use social media as a primary source; that finding runs counter to the discovery that most Americans overall now rely on social media for news stories. Black people are more likely to get their news from local and national television news than social media. Pew found that Black Americans are more likely than white Americans to get news from certain social media sites. But still, Black women turn to traditional news outlets for the information. Our work confirms that more research is needed to understand gender divides among Black public opinion.

How we conducted our research

Few studies examine Black women in isolation. We surveyed 2,284 Black women voters in March 2022, during the months leading up to the 2022 midterm election. We used a Qualtrics online survey panel, an opt-in survey community. Qualtrics uses its internal targeting to send targeted email invites to the requested sample, which in this study was a nationally representative sample of self-identified Black women. Our sample was evenly balanced on regional variables to ensure that we didn’t have an oversample of Black women from the south — where Black people are geographically concentrated.

Where do Black women receive their news?

The vast majority of Black women receive political news via television, although we find differences based on educational attainment and generation. Women with less than a high school diploma and who were born after 1981 are less likely to report TV as their primary source of political news. Baby Boomer (born between 1946 and 1964) and Gen X (1965 to 1980) Black women are more likely to get their political news from TV.

This indicates that more Black women may be increasingly turning to other sources, such as social media, to get their political news. This shift may be because Black women are more likely to be connected online and have access to a wider range of news sources. Additionally, this shift may also be because Black women are increasingly aware of the potential bias of the mainstream media.

Nadia Brown is a professor of government at Georgetown University. Camille Burge is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Villanova University. Christine M. Slaughter is an assistant professor of political science at Boston University. This study was funded by the Idol Family Fellowship Program in the Anne Welsh McNulty Institute for Women’s Leadership at Villanova University. This article first appeared at Good Authority, a successor to The Monkey Cage.

Photo by byronv2 being used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     Feb. 29, 2024, 10:25 a.m.
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