Survey Methodology for the 2020 Digital News Report

This study has been commissioned by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism to understand how news is being consumed in a range of countries. Research was conducted by YouGov using an online questionnaire at the end of January/beginning of February 2020.

  • Samples in each country were assembled using nationally representative quotas for age, gender, region, and education. The data were also weighted to targets based on census/industry accepted data.
  • As this survey deals with news consumption, we filtered out anyone who said that they had not consumed any news in the past month, in order to ensure that irrelevant responses didn’t adversely affect data quality. This category averaged around 3%.
  • We should note that online samples will tend to under-represent the consumption habits of people who are not online (typically older, less affluent, and with limited formal education). In this sense it is better to think of results as representative of online populations who use news at least once a month. In a country like Norway this is almost everyone (98%) but in Mexico it is only two-thirds (66%) and in South Africa just over half (55%). Our sample in Kenya only includes those aged 18-54 due to difficulties in reaching older people online.
  • These differences mean we need to be cautious when comparing results between countries. We have marked countries with lower internet penetration or less representative online samples with an asterisk (*) in the table at the end of this section and have been careful in the report not to directly compare these countries on issues where we know that the sample difference would make results invalid (e.g. paying for news).
  • It is also important to note that online surveys rely on recall, which is often imperfect or subject to biases. We have tried to mitigate these risks through careful questionnaire design and testing. On the other hand, surveys can be a good way of capturing fragmented media consumption across platforms (e.g. social media, messaging, apps, and websites), and tracking activities and changes over time.
  • It is important to note that some of our survey-based results will not match industry data, which are often based on different methodologies, such as web-tracking. The accuracy of these approaches can be high, but they are subject to different limitations, meaning that data can also be partial or incomplete.
  • We conducted two additional surveys this year. The first was a detailed study of paying for online news where we surveyed around 4,000 respondents in the United States and the United Kingdom and around 2,000 respondents in Norway. Polling was conducted by YouGov in February 2020 using a similar methodology as for the main survey. In April we conducted an additional survey with the Misinformation, Science and Media project run by the Reuters Institute in collaboration with the Oxford Internet Institute and support from the Oxford Martin School to understand the impact of the novel coronavirus on media consumption in six countries (UK, USA, Germany, Spain, Argentina, and South Korea). Samples sizes were approximately 2,000 in the UK and Germany, and 1,000 elsewhere. We have indicated occasions where data come from these additional surveys next to the appropriate chart. Where we compare the results from this survey to the DNR, we have removed those that use news less than once a month to make the data more directly comparable. For more details on the methodology for this survey, see the standalone report (Nielsen et al. 2020). Open questions were used in our surveys and some user comments have been drawn from these and are used in the text.
  • A fuller description of the methodology, panel partners, and a discussion of non-probability sampling techniques can be found here. The full questionnaire is available on the Resources and Charts page.