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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 02:30 PM ET, 06/29/2011

Gallup poll results: Perhaps not that dire

Note to newspaper executives: It may not be that bad. Note to TV executives: It may not be that good.

We’re talking here about the confidence of young adults in newspapers and TV news. A Gallup poll released this week reported that people aged 18 through 29 — a vital demographic for any industry — lost 10 points of confidence in newspapers and gained 10 points of confidence in TV news.

Skeptical of the possibility that these folks are really changing views that fast, we caught up with Gallup staffer Lymari Morales. Here’s what gives:

l The real gap could be narrower. The 18-29 group is among the smaller sample sizes in the survey. That is, Gallup cornered only 134 people in this group, whereas it suckered more than 200 people in the other subgroups into taking part. On account of the sample size, the margin of error for the young ’uns increases to +/- 11. And that would be an error margin in excess of the confidence swings themselves. Accordingly, Morales tells me that it’s “good not to overstate these changes.”

Couldn’t agree more. Maybe we should rewrite the lede here.

l The question could use some updating. Morales notes that the broad question about confidence in newspapers and TV news has been the same since 1993. Meaning it has missed and cannot possibly account for what many thinkers call the most significant revolution in history. And meaning, also, that Washington City Paper Editor Michael Schaffer (disclosure: a friend) was uncannily on the money yesterday when he e-mailed me this point: “This newspaper vs. TV formulation seems very, um, 1993. How does video on nytimes.com figure? Or words on CNN.com? Or TMZ, which had a Web site first and then a syndicated show? Etc.”

l As always, more study needed. “We don’t have a good hypothesis” about what’s behind the numbers, says Morales. She says Gallup is considering new research to ferret out insights on how people are using all these media.

By  |  02:30 PM ET, 06/29/2011

 
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