On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of federal charges, and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to charges in a separate federal case. The week was one of the worst of Trump’s presidency, with questions about how much he was involved in illegal campaign finance schemes.
Here’s how some journalists described the news: “almost surreal,” “all-consuming” and “even by the dizzying standards of the Trump-fueled news cycle ... the most frenetic yet.”
And here’s how a 50-year-old California man saw it who said he spent a little under half an hour reading the paper and checking Facebook and Twitter: “Nothing special. Just a ho-hum day.”
Most Americans pay at least a little attention to current events, but they differ enormously in where they turn to get their news and which stories they pay attention to. To get a better sense of how a busy news cycle played out in homes across the country, we repeated an experiment, teaming up with YouGov to ask 1,000 people nationwide to describe their news consumption and respond to a simple prompt: “In your own words, please describe what you would say happened in the news on Tuesday.”
Some were raptly following the latest political developments. One person likened it to “binge-watching a fictional series on Netflix.” But only a quarter of those surveyed said they had paid a lot of attention to the news, and just 27 percent said Tuesday’s news cycle seemed much busier than usual. Many said, sometimes apologetically, that they had been dealing with more pressing demands. Some were busy with work or were dealing with medical issues. One woman was preoccupied battling an eviction from her home; another, after reading the morning paper, spent most of her day helping at a church food bank. A man in New York was camping and couldn’t get a TV signal.
Others were burned out, overwhelmed or uninterested or just didn’t trust the media. “I do not have a big understanding of politics,” another respondent wrote, “and there is so [much] bickering that sometimes I just turn the news off.”
For many, the Manafort and Cohen stories still broke through. Of those polled who said they had paid any attention to the news and who were able to name at least one news story that happened on Tuesday, nearly three-quarters mentioned the guilty outcomes, making them by far the most-cited news stories.
But Americans’ interpretations of the stories varied widely, as did their levels of interest.
Many of Trump’s opponents were ecstatic (“I love this ‘witch hunt’ so much!” one said), but many of his supporters circled the wagons (“Liberal media glee at the news about Manafort and Cohen, even though Manafort had nothing to do with Trump and Cohen only slightly involved Trump,” one responded). Whereas some rattled off detailed summaries of the proceedings, others’ recollection was limited to, as one put it, “Someone important got convicted.”
And the Manafort and Cohen cases weren’t the only stories to attract attention. About 20 percent of those polled who were able to name at least one news story said they had followed other political topics, including Trump’s rally in West Virginia, the indictment of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and reports on the strength of the economy. Just over a quarter mentioned the killing of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts, which the Trump administration seized on to push for stricter controls on immigration. Other stories to garner interest included a hurricane bearing down on Hawaii, an earthquake striking Venezuela, the killing of Shanann Watts, the toppling of a Confederate statue in North Carolina and the emergency landing of a plane carrying rapper Post Malone.
More telling than those statistics are respondents’ own words. You can read a sampling of the responses from across the political spectrum below.
(A few notes: People who sign up for online survey panels and participate in polls about politics tend to be more civically engaged than the average citizen, although YouGov’s weighting process seems to make its results less susceptible to that effect. All the data on news consumption below is self-reported. Some responses have been lightly edited to fix typos or for clarity.)
30 percent say they paid a lot of attention to the news Tuesday; 12 percent followed news about Manafort and Cohen very closely
24 percent of those who followed the news at all Tuesday have a fair amount or a great deal of trust in the media
Top sources among those who followed the news: online outlets (43 percent), Fox News (42 percent), local TV (40 percent), radio news (34 percent)
“On Fox they talked about Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort being found guilty on less than half his accused crimes, Mollie Tibbets being murdered by yet another illegal alien that hunted her down terrified and killed her for fun, and covered the president’s rally in West Virginia. I have no idea what the Trump haters reported.” ― 68-year-old man, got news from Fox News, The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier and The Des Moines Register
“The main thing I remember is the news that they had found the body of the Iowa student that have been missing and that the death was due to an illegal immigrant who stopped her and killed her, that’s the main thing that popped out. Of course, there was all kinds of political jabber going on, but mostly I ignore that. I remember there was a few things about ICE but can’t tell you what they were.” — 63-year-old woman, got news from NPR and The Orlando Sentinel
“Manafort trial came to an end with eight counts of tax fraud and evasion. Ten counts were dismissed. Former Trump lawyer Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to whatever he did wrong. Nothing to do with the president. Another beautiful, young soul has lost their life to an illegal alien that overstayed his work visa four to seven years after it expired. We need a wall, and we need to change our immigration laws.” ― 38-year-old man, got news from Fox News
“I was informed of the Manafort verdict, destruction by college kids of a statue commemorating the deaths of Southern sons in the Civil War. Finding the body of missing young girl and arrest of another illegal immigrant for her murder. Hurricane heading to Hawaii.” — 91-year-old man, got news from local Fox affiliate and Fox News
“Manafort found guilty on eight counts. Cohen found guilty. Mollie Tibbetts’ body found and an illegal immigrant was charged with her murder. Coconut oil is poison, per new studies.” — 65-year-old woman, got news from CNN, Fox News and The Daily Mail
“I honestly don’t know. There’s fires in Washington state still, and wide receiver Josh Gordon might be back in the next preseason game for the Browns.” — 21-year-old man, got news from Reddit
HILLARY CLINTON VOTERS
44 percent say they paid a lot of attention to the news Tuesday; 34 percent followed news about Manafort and Cohen very closely
86 percent of those who followed the news at all Tuesday have a fair amount or a great deal of trust in the media
Top sources among those who followed the news: online outlets (52 percent), local TV news (41 percent), national TV news (37 percent), Facebook (28 percent), MSNBC (26 percent), CNN (25 percent)
“Everyone’s going to jail! Manafort convicted on eight of 18 counts, Michael Cohen reached a plea deal and is now a felon, a second GOP congressman was indicted on criminal charges this month, and that poor girl in the Midwest was found, having been killed by a person in the country without documentation. Also, Trump had a rally in West Virginia, a poor state, where he talked about his luxury houses. Idiot.” ― 28-year-old woman, got news from Twitter, Facebook and the websites for CBS, Politico and The New York Times
“Wildfires and smoke in Seattle and Vancouver. Manafort guilty on many counts. Trump threatens to revoke security clearances of political foes. Earthquake in Philippines. Hurricane threatens Hawaii. Missing Iowa girl found dead, undocumented immigrant suspected. Pope says church failed little ones. Drought in Missouri, governor to give out water from lakes and allow cows to graze on state land.” ― 58-year-old woman, got news from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the websites for The Washington Post and The New York Times
“Top Trump cronies went down for fraud: Paul Manafort was convicted on eight counts while attorney Michael Cohen copped a plea. The vaping gamer congressman was fined for spending campaign funds illegally.” ― 40-year-old man, got news from Twitter
“I was really involved and watching the coverage on the case in Colorado. They had live coverage of the husband that is accused of murdering his wife and children.” — 31-year-old woman, got news from a local ABC affiliate, ABC’s “World News Tonight,” CNN and Facebook
“Cohen was found guilty of paying an outrageous amount of money of hush money to two women, one of whom was Stormy Daniels. He says he was directed to do this by ‘a candidate for federal office,’ which is definitely Trump. He is willing to dish out more information to Mueller and his team because he believes ‘family and country come first’ instead of his previous statement, when he said, ‘I would take a bullet for Trump.’ This could be enough to begin the impeachment process.” ― 22-year-old woman, got news from CNN, Twitter and Reddit
“Two Trump cronies were found guilty of financial crimes and sentenced, Trump threatened to pull more security clearances. Three murders in Indianapolis, murderer booked for killing his wife and children claimed the wife started it. Serious floods in India, Trump called his troubles a ‘witch hunt’ and more. Jurors warned to not become public figures.” ― 77-year-old man, got news from local ABC and NBC affiliates, “CBS Evening News,” “PBS NewsHour,” CNN, MSNBC, NPR and Daily Kos
“The only thing I saw was about Post Malone’s plane landing safely and a lot of stuff about the VMAs.” — 28-year-old woman, got news from Facebook
NONVOTERS AND THIRD-PARTY VOTERS
12 percent say they paid a lot of attention to the news Tuesday; 6 percent followed news about Manafort and Cohen very closely
50 percent of those who followed the news at all Tuesday have a fair amount or a great deal of trust in the media
Top sources among those who followed the news: online outlets (34 percent), local TV news (33 percent)
“I prefer the local news. Big story here was a woman found sitting in her car dead on the side of the freeway with a rope around her neck and her 1-year-old foster child left alone at home.” ― 66-year-old woman, got news from local ABC affiliate
“Ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort has been found guilty on eight charges of tax fraud, bank fraud and failing to disclose foreign banks accounts. U.S. President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty in a Manhattan court to violating campaign finance laws. Congress started to discuss new sanctions against Russia.” ― 59-year-old man, got news from CNN, BBC Radio, Voice of America and Radio Liberty
“Some more Trump drama got resolved.” — 26-year-old man, got news from Twitter and YouTube
“The flooding that killed one person so far. The hurricane that is headed for Hawaii. The earthquake that hit Venezuela. The body of the girl from Iowa was found after missing for over a month.” ― 29-year-old woman, got news from local NBC affiliate and Facebook
“Trump announced rollbacks on EPA regulation, Manafort guilty on eight counts, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts. There were other things on murder victims, suspects, etc. I’m generally not interested.” ― 49-year-old man, got news from got news from websites for CNN, Fox News and The Hill
“The news outlets covered the earthquake that occurred in Venezuela and bordering countries. Verdicts were handed down in court proceedings involving Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. The body of missing woman Mollie Tibbetts was found, and an illegal alien has been charged. Former CIA Director Brennan is still complaining about losing his security clearance and is threatening possible legal action. President Trump will give a speech tonight in West Virginia ― among other things.” ― 71-year-old woman, got news from YouTube, Yahoo News and a local newspaper
“Michael Cohen indicted. Asia Argento accused of sexual assault. Some guy in Florida got shot to death while robbing a gun store.” ― 35-year-old man, got news from Reuters
“Farm truck went on fire. People drowned in local lake. A cat is lost.” ― 37-year-old man, got news from local NBC affiliate website and Facebook
Half of Americans say news and current events matter a lot to their daily lives, while 30 percent say the news doesn’t have much to do with them. The rest aren’t sure.
A quarter of Americans say they paid a lot of attention to the news on Tuesday, with 32 percent paying just some attention, 26 percent paying not very much attention and 18 percent paying no attention at all. Forty-seven percent thought the news was at least a little busier than average.
Of those who paid any attention to the news on Tuesday, 32 percent spent an hour or more reading, watching or listening. About 23 percent spent 30 minutes to an hour, 18 percent spent 15 minutes to half an hour, and 21 percent spent less than 15 minutes.
Just 15 percent of those who paid any attention to the news Tuesday have a great deal of trust in the media to state the facts fully, accurately and fairly. Thirty-eight percent have a fair amount of trust, 28 percent don’t have much trust in the media, and 11 percent have none at all.
Those who followed the news on Tuesday were most likely to say they had gotten their news from an online news source (42 percent) or local TV (37 percent), followed by national cable TV (33 percent), social media (28 percent), national network news (23 percent), radio (19 percent) and conversations with other people (19 percent). The least popular source was print newspapers and magazines (10 percent).
Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups:
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Aug. 21 and 22 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.
Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.