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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher October 29, 2015

Most people get their news from Facebook, GOP Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch says

Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch was asked at a Marquette University Law School forum why polls indicate that most Wisconsin residents think the state is headed in the wrong direction.

Kleefisch told the audience Oct. 21, 2015 that she thought the polls reflected Wisconsinites’ concerns about where the nation is headed.

Then she suggested that some of the good economic news in the state isn’t getting enough attention -- and made an interesting claim about Facebook, saying:

"One of the things that we don’t hear a lot about is the fact that wages are actually up four and a half percent year over year here in Wisconsin. I haven’t read that article. I read it in my briefing binder; we hear our cabinet secretaries talk about it. But it’s not one of those things that’s on Facebook every day. Most Americans are now getting their news from Facebook. We need to be talking about the things that matter to our neighbors."

When we asked Kleefisch about the Facebook claim, she said "should have qualified and sourced" what she stated. She said she was actually relying on a poll about where millennials get their news about politics and government, not where all Americans get their news generally.

But let’s investigate this a little, looking at some scientific polls.

The polls

The poll Kleefisch said she relied on was reported in June 2015 by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. That survey, done in March and April of 2014, found that most millennials -- 61 percent -- reported getting news about politics and government from Facebook in the previous week. Millennials were born from 1981 to 1996, and were between the ages of 18 and 33 at the time.

We found some other polling, however, that surveyed for all Americans and for news generally, not just news about politics and government.

Those polls do not show that most Americans get news from Facebook.

1. A March 2015 Pew poll found that 41 percent of American adults get news from Facebook.

Pew emphasized to us that that does not suggest that Facebook is the main source of news for that group.

2. A poll done for the American Press Institute in January and February 2014 asked respondents if they had found news in the previous week from a list of various sources that were read to them.

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When asked if they got news directly from news organizations, such as a newspaper or TV newscast, websites or news wires, 88 percent said yes. Only 44 percent said they had gotten news in the past week from social media, through platforms such as Twitter or Facebook.

3. Gallup in June 2013 used an open-ended question to ask respondents to identify their main source of news.

Some 55 percent of the respondents said TV; that was the most popular answer. Only 21 percent said the Internet as their main news source, including 2 percent who identified Facebook, Twitter or other social media. Nine percent said the print version of newspapers.

Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, told us there are two points to keep in mind:

  • Overall, most Americans get their news from many sources, even if TV still is the most common, and people use different sources for different types of news. "We seek it out and we bump into it and, actually, no one place dominates," he said.

  • Facebook is not a source of news -- since it distributes rather than produces news -- but it is likely the top pathway to news for people under age 35.

Our rating

Kleefisch said at a public forum: "Most Americans are now getting their news from Facebook."

The lieutenant governor told us she misspoke and should have qualified her statement to make it about millennials -- Americans roughly between the ages of 18 and 33. One poll found that 61 percent of them reported getting political news on Facebook in the previous week.

But in terms of Americans overall getting news of all types, not just political news, we found no polls indicating that a majority get news from Facebook.

We rate Kleefisch’s statement False.

More on polling

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., said "60 percent of all Americans do not want to see Planned Parenthood defunded." True.

GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson said the number of people who "believe in socialism ... is increasing." Half True.

Conservative commentator Karl Rove said that at this point in 2012, "Rick Perry was ahead at 29.9 percent, and we had seven more leads before it finally settled on Mitt Romney." Mostly True.

Our Sources

Marquette Law School, video of Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch appearance (quote at 18:20), Oct. 21, 2015

Email exchange, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Oct. 22, 2015

Pew Research Center, "News use on Facebook and Twitter is on the rise," July 14, 2015

Pew Research Center, "The Evolving Role of News on Twitter and Facebook," July 14, 2015

Pew Research Center, "Social media, political news and ideology," Oct. 21, 2014

Pew Research Center, "Percent of Americans Who Get News on Facebook,"

Pew Research Center, "Millennials and political news," June 1, 2015

Email exchange, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Department of Political Science associate professor Michael W. Wagner, Oct. 26, 2015

American Press Institute, "How Millennials Get News: Inside the habits of America’s first digital generation," March 16, 2015

American Press Institute, "The personal news cycle: How Americans choose to get their news," March 17, 2014

Interview, American Press Institute executive director Tom Rosenstiel, Oct. 26, 2015

Gallup, "TV is Americans’ main source of news," July 8, 2013

Email exchange, American Enterprise Institute senior fellow and research coordinator Karlyn Bowman, Oct. 26, 2015

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Most people get their news from Facebook, GOP Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch says

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