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Monmouth University Polling Institute

Shift in New Jersey Media Usage

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Public media viewed positively, but awareness is down

The New Jersey public is less aware of the state's public media outlet than it was before NJN was disbanded more than a year ago.  According to the latest Monmouth University Poll , conducted in conjunction with the Rutgers Institute for Information Policy & Law, viewers and listeners of public television and radio still give those outlets generally positive ratings for their coverage of the Garden State.  This is occurring in a rapidly changing media environment where more residents are now getting their news from the internet.

The survey asked residents to identify which type of media they use to get most of their information about New Jersey politics and public affairs.  Currently, 34% say their main news source is television.  The internet (28%) and newspapers (27%) are essentially tied for second place, with radio (6%) following far behind.  A little over three years ago, television stood a few points higher (41%) and newspapers (28%) claimed second place on their own, with the internet (19%) placing third.  As recently, as 2005, newspapers claimed the top spot as New Jerseyans' primary information source about their home state with 48% citing it as their main source, followed by television at 31% and the internet at 6%.  The use of radio as a primary source for state news has been consistent at either 6% or 7% in these prior polls.  [It is worth noting that many internet sources may in fact be sites run by a newspaper or television/radio station.]  

Among New Jerseyans who are 18 to 34 years old, the internet is now the primary source of news about the state - named by 45% in the current poll, up from 33% in 2009.  Younger adults' reliance on both television (28%) and newspapers (17%) has dropped by 5 to 6 percentage points during the same time period.  Garden State residents age 35 to 54 are split between television (34%) and the internet (32%) as their primary source of New Jersey political information, with newspapers (21%) following behind.  In three years, preference for using the internet by those aged 35 to 54 has jumped by 13 points from 19% in 2009, while reliance on television and newspapers has dropped by 5 to 6 percentage points.  New Jerseyans age 55 and over are evenly divided between newspapers (40%) and television (39%) as their main source of state news, with just 9% relying primarily on the internet.  In 2009, 48% of this age group selected television, 34% newspapers, and 7% internet.

"The media environment is shifting rapidly.  Less than a decade ago, the internet was a secondary or niche source for news about New Jersey public affairs.  It is now on track to displace both newspapers and television in importance in the next couple of years," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

While reliance on the internet is increasing, it is not necessarily the best rated source for state news.  Overall, most New Jerseyans say their preferred news sources does either a very good (22%) or somewhat good (51%) job of keeping them informed about New Jersey politics and public affairs.  Just 1-in-4 say they do a bad job (15% somewhat bad and 9% very bad).  Among those who rely on the internet, 63% say it does a good job compared to 33% who say it does a bad job.  Residents who rely on newspapers or television for state news are more likely to view the quality of that coverage favorably - 82% good to 17% bad among newspaper users and 76% good to 20% bad among those who rely mainly on television.

"Many internet sources of New Jersey news and information actually disseminate the original journalism of other news organizations.  The reliance on the internet actually highlights the importance of investing in original reporting in traditional news organizations and pushing that reporting out through all media," said Ellen P. Goodman, co- director of the Rutgers Institute for Information Law & Policy.

Turning to public television specifically, the survey found that 7-in-10 New Jersey residents (70%) report being aware that the state has a public television station, which is down from about 8-in-10 for the last two decades that NJN was in operation, standing at 79% in the last poll in 2010.  When asked to identify the state's public television station, just 5% can name the new entity, NJTV, which replaced NJN in July 2011.  About 1-in-7 still refer to the station by its old name - NJN (12%) or New Jersey Network (2%).  Another 4% identify it by its channel number.  Other residents confuse NJTV with WNET (7%) - which now operates the state's public television station - or WHYY (12%), and even the commercial cable news outlet News12 New Jersey (11%).  It should be noted, though, that this level of confusion is similar to poll results from September 2010 when NJN was still in operation.

The 5% who can name NJTV off the top of their heads is down from the 23% who could name NJN in 2010, suggesting a loss of brand identity.  When presented with the television station's name, "NJTV," more than half (55%) say they have heard of it, for a total of 60% of New Jerseyans who are aware of NJTV.  This is lower than the 85% who recognized the NJN brand just a few months before that entity was disbanded.  Overall awareness of NJTV is higher in South Jersey (68%) than it is in the northern (57%) and central (56%) regions of the state.

One-in-four New Jerseyans (25%) recall watching NJTV in the past month.  This includes 30% in South Jersey, 23% in North Jersey, and 20% in Central Jersey.  In 2010, half (51%) of state residents self-reported having watched NJN in the prior month, which was a decline from 59% in 1999.

Just 29% of New Jerseyans are aware that operation of the state's public television network was transferred from NJN to NJTV.   About half of this group (49%) feels that coverage of New Jersey issues and topics is the same on NJTV as it was on NJN.  Another 17% report that coverage has gotten worse and 11% say it is now better.  Among those who have watched NJTV in the past month, 57% say state coverage is the same, 19% say it is worse, and 18% say it is better.

"While there has been a significant drop in the visibility and brand identity of New Jersey's public television outlet since the transfer to NJTV, the net impact on perceived quality has been negligible for most residents," said Murray.

NJ Public TV Awareness Trends *  


Aware of New Jersey Public Television  

Have heard of NJTV (NJN)  

Can name NJTV  


Watched NJTV (NJN) in past month  































 *  Earlier surveys asked about NJN.  The 1981 to 1999 surveys were conducted by the Rutgers-Eagleton Institute on behalf of the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Foundation.  

When asked how well NJTV covers state news, nearly 4-in-10 New Jerseyans give the new entity a positive rating of excellent (7%) or good (31%), while 1-in-4 say it is doing an only fair (21%) or poor (4%) job. Among self-identified NJTV viewers, 7-in-10 give a positive rating - 18% excellent and 52% good - and one-quarter give a negative rating - 24% only fair and 1% poor.  Those who are aware of NJTV but have not watched it in the past month offer a split decision - 30% positive (5% excellent and 25% good) and 30% negative (24% only fair and 6% poor), with 41% offering no opinion.  Regionally, residents of the northern (41%) and southern (38%) parts of the state are slightly more likely than those in the central section (32%) to give NJTV a positive rating for its coverage of the state.

Nearly half of Garden State residents give a positive rating for the state coverage provided by cable outlets like News12 and Fios1 - 10% excellent and 38% good - compared to 3-in-10 who give a negative rating of only fair (24%) or poor (5%).  The 48% positive rating for cable outlets is higher than the 38% rating given to NJTV by all state residents.  Among NJTV viewers, though, 51% give the cable outlets a positive rating for their coverage of New Jersey news, which is lower than the 70% positive rating for NJTV.  Regionally, North Jersey residents (58%) are the most positive about cable outlet coverage of state news.  Just under half of those in Central Jersey (45%) and one-third in South Jersey (34%) feel the same.

Residents were also asked to rate the news coverage provided by network affiliates in New York and Philadelphia.  These stations receive generally negative ratings.  Just over a third say they do an excellent (5%) or good (31%) job covering the state, while half rate the broadcast stations' coverage as only fair (35%) or poor (15%).  These results are similar for NJTV viewers (39% positive to 51% negative).  South Jersey residents (44%) are somewhat more positive about how their local network affiliates cover the state when compared to those in North Jersey (36%) and especially Central Jersey (26%).

NJTV awareness and viewership varies significantly by age.  Garden State residents age 55 and older (69%) and 35 to 54 (61%) are more likely than New Jersey adults under age 35 (47%) to recognize the NJTV name.  Nearly 4-in-10 of those age 55 and older (38%) report having watched NJTV in the past month, dropping to 1-in-4 among those age 35 to 54 (23%) and just 1-in-10 of those age 18 to 34 (11%).  In 2010, a majority of those age 35 and over - 55% of those age 55+ and an identical 55% of those age 35 to 54 - reported watching NJN in the prior month, compared to 37% of adults under 35 years old.

The poll also asked about public radio listenership.  About 1-in-4 New Jerseyans report listening to a public radio outlet serving the state, specifically WNYC (9%), WHYY (9%), New Jersey Public Radio (7%), and WBGO (3%).  Fewer than 2-in-10 North Jersey residents report listening to any of these stations compared to 3-in-10 residents of Central Jersey and South Jersey.  There are no significant age-related differences in self-reported public radio listenership.

Statewide, about one-quarter of residents give local public radio outlets a positive rating - 4% excellent and 19% good - for their coverage of New Jersey news and a similar number give a negative rating - 19% only fair and 3% poor.  Among public radio listeners only, a majority give a positive rating - 15% excellent and 37% good - and one-third give a negative rating - 31% only fair and 2% poor.  Regionally, South Jersey residents offer the most favorable reviews of public radio's coverage of the state - 29% positive to 17% negative, while those in Central Jersey are the least favorable - 19% positive to 33% negative.  Residents of North Jersey are split - 22% positive to 19% negative.

About one-third of residents give a positive rating to state news coverage provided by talk radio station New Jersey 101.5 - 10% excellent and 22% good - compared to 1-in-5 who gives a negative rating - 14% only fair and 5% poor.  About half (49%) offer no opinion.  Among public radio listeners, New Jersey 101.5 gets more positive (40%) than negative (22%) reviews for its Garden State coverage.  Regionally, opinion of New Jersey 101.5's coverage registers a net positive in both Central Jersey - 44% positive to 24% negative - and South Jersey - 36% positive to 14% negative.  North Jersey residents are split 21% positive to 20% negative.  It's worth noting that more than half of North Jersey (58%) and South Jersey (51%) residents are unable to give the station a rating, compared to just one-third of those living in Central Jersey (32%).

State coverage provided by other news and talk radio stations based in New York and Philadelphia draws less favorable reviews - about one-quarter positive - 3% excellent and 21% good - to nearly 4-in-10 negative - 29% only fair and 9% poor.  Among public radio listeners, 33% rate the commercial radio outlets' coverage of New Jersey positively while 50% have a negative view.  Opinions vary by region but register a net negative across the board, including in North Jersey (19% positive to 34% negative), Central Jersey (21% positive to 48% negative) and South Jersey (30% positive to 37% negative).

"While reviews of New Jersey public media are generally positive among its audience, the results suggest that these entities have work to do in order to serve the larger statewide public with news and information they find useful," said Goodman of RIIPL.  The Rutgers Institute for Information Policy & Law (RIIPL) is hosting a forum on the status of New Jersey's public media since the transfer of NJN's assets to nonprofit entities in Philadelphia and New York.  The forum will be held on Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 3:00 pm at the Eagleton Institute of Politics in New Brunswick.  Featured speakers will include executives of the state's public media operating entities.

The latest Monmouth University Poll  was conducted by telephone with 805 New Jersey adults from September 19 to 23, 2012.  This sample has a margin of error of ±  3.5 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey, in conjunction with the Rutgers Institute for Information Policy & Law at Rutgers University School of Law-Camden.

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

1.      Where do you get most of your information about politics and public affairs in New Jersey – from newspapers, television, radio, the Internet, or somewhere else?

2.      Do the news sources do a good job or bad job informing you about all you need to know about New Jersey politics and public affairs?  [PROBE:  Is that very or just somewhat good/bad?] 

3.      To the best of your knowledge, is there a public television station currently operating in New Jersey, or not?

4.      Do you happen to know the name of this public television station?  [If YES:  What is it called?]  [LIST WAS NOT READ]   [Note: Results add to more than 100% because multiple responses were accepted] 

5.      Have you ever heard of N.J.T.V., which is usually received on channel 23 or 50?

6.      Have you watched N.J.T.V. in the past month?

7.      Were you aware that operation of New Jersey’s public television network was transferred a little over a year ago from N.J.N. to N.J.T.V, or hadn’t you heard about this?

[The following question was asked only of those who are aware of the transfer,  moe= +/- 6.1%]

8.      Do you think the coverage of New Jersey issues and topics has gotten better, gotten worse, or is about the same since N.J.N. was changed to N.J.T.V.?

9.      How would you rate the job different TV stations do at covering news about New Jersey?  Does [READ ITEM] do an excellent, good, only fair, or poor job covering news about New Jersey?  [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

         N.J.T.V. public television

         Local cable news like News12 and Fios1

         Local TV news from New York or Philadelphia network affiliates

10.    In the past month, have you listened to one of the following public radio stations – WNYC, WHYY, WBGO, or New Jersey Public Radio?  This does NOT include New Jersey 101.5.   

11.    How would you rate the job different radio stations do at covering news about New Jersey?  Does [READ ITEM] do an excellent, good, only fair, or poor job covering news about New Jersey? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

         Public radio, including WNYC, WHYY, WBGO, and NJ Public Radio

         Talk station New Jersey 101.5

         New York or Philadelphia based news and talk radio stations

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute on September 19 to 23, 2012 with a statewide random sample of 805 adult residents, including 642 contacted on a landline telephone and 163 on a cell phone.  Live interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, Inc. and the telephone sample was obtained from Survey Sampling International.  Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey questionnaire design, data weighting and analysis.  For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.  Sampling error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements based on various population subgroups, such as separate figures reported by gender or party identification, are subject to more error than are statements based on the total sample.  In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

It is the Monmouth University Polling Institute’s policy to conduct surveys of all adult New Jersey residents, including voters and non-voters, on issues that affect the state.  Specific voter surveys are conducted when appropriate during election cycles.

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.  

Download this Poll Report with all tables

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