If you're reading this, you probably voted in the last election, and you'll probably vote in the next one, too. Readers of community newspapers are significantly more likely to vote than non-readers, according to the newest annual readership survey from the National Newspaper Association.
A whopping 85 percent of people who regularly read their community newspaper said they are "very likely" to vote in upcoming elections. And that's not a fluke -- the NNA survey has found similar high rates of voter participation in its previous surveys.
That percentage does not guarantee that 85 percent do vote, just that they plan to. But it's still a response 12 points stronger than from those polled who do not regularly read a community newspaper.
Obviously, there's a three-way correlation between being involved citizens, voting and reading your newspaper. More involved people are going to vote and keep up with what's going on around them more often, so these survey results don't prove reading a newspaper causes you to vote.
But we do think reading a newspaper makes you more informed -- about candidates, about issues, about current events. When you're more informed, you can feel more confident about what you know and why you know it. That confidence can help you feel more comfortable taking on your duty to vote.
We're all familiar with the standard excuses given by those who choose not to vote: the candidates are all the same, the system is broken, it doesn't affect me -- blah. blah. blah. All the excuses for not voting are rooted in the same thing -- ignorance.
Ignorance makes people ashamed and uncomfortable. Unfortunately, that shame and discomfort too often create a feedback loop: People who lack information don't want to admit they don't know and don't go seeking answers out of fear, and so they remain uninformed and uncomfortable participating.
Newspapers counteract ignorance with facts. The more you read, the more aware and informed you become, and the easier it becomes to tackle important things like voting.
Here are some more data points from the NNA survey:
• Survey respondents said they relied the most on community newspapers for information about political candidates -- more than they rely on national TV news, cable TV news and metropolitan newspapers.
• Respondents rated direct political mailings, talk radio and social media as far less reliable for information on political candidates than newspapers.
• Respondents intentionally sought out information about candidates from sources such as community newspapers much more often than from less reliable sources such as social media.
• 61 percent of all respondents "turn to their local community newspaper for information about candidates for public office at the federal, state or local level."