VIRUS: PEOPLE ARE TURNING AWAY FROM PAPERS

News avoidance increases during the pandemic

BY IAN MURRAY

Almost 60 per cent of people say they always, often or sometimes avoid news during the present Covid-19 emergency.

The survey carried out by the Reuters Institute reveals a significant number of people are turning away from the news as the pandemic continues.

Of those who always or often now avoid the news, 86 per cent say they are specifically trying to avoid news about the Covid-19 situation.

Most of those avoiding the news (66 per cent) say it is because they are worried about the effect Covid-19 coverage will have on their mood.

The survey was designed by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford to collect data on how people navigate news and information during the coronavirus pandemic and was fielded by YouGov.

Its main findings are:

  • After an initial surge in news use, there has been a significant increase in news avoidance, with 22 per cent saying they often or always actively try to avoid the news (up from 15 per cent in mid-April), growing to 59 per cent if those who say they sometimes actively avoid the news are included (up from 49 per cent in mid-April).
  • Women (26 per cent) are more likely to avoid news than men (18 per cent), compounding existing gender inequalities in news use, both probably at least in part due to unequally distributed caring responsibilities.
  • The vast majority of those who always or often avoid news (86 per cent) say they are trying to avoid COVID-19 news at least some of the time, and most of them said they are primarily worried about the effect it has on their mood (66 per cent). 33 per cent say they feel there is too much news, and 28 per cent say they avoid news because they feel there isn’t anything they can do with the information.
  • More people say they are actively avoiding news that rely on intentional choice (television, news websites/apps) than say they actively avoid news they may come across incidentally while doing other things (on social media, or sent to them via email and messaging apps).
  • 30 per cent think that the coronavirus situation in the UK is heading in the right direction (down from 35 per cent in mid-April), and 20 per cent (up from 10 per cent in mid-April) think the UK is on the wrong track. Just under half (45 per cent) think the picture is mixed.

“Just 20 per cent of our respondents say they never actively seek to avoid news. When we asked the same question in a survey conducted in early 2019, the figure was 36 per cent,” reports the survey.

“News avoidance is evenly distributed across different social groups, with small differences based on income, education, and political orientation. However, we find some significant age and gender differences. Those aged between 25 to 44 (some of whom will be parents with young children) are more likely to say they always or often avoid news (28 per cent) than adults under 25 (19 per cent) and above 45 (19 per cent). Women (26 per cent) are also more likely to avoid news than men (18 per cent).”

“As respondents said in open-ended responses: ‘The news currently makes me feel incredibly stressed’ and ‘I am bombarded with negative news’. A third of respondents (32 per cent) said they avoid news because they don’t trust it, a reason cited by 49 per centr of news avoiders who identify as right-wing.

“Only 5 per cent of news avoiders said they avoid news because they are not interested in it. When given the opportunity to provide other reasons for news avoidance, many respondents mentioned that the news is very repetitive these days: ‘News is always the same’ or ‘Too much of news is repeated and speculative’.”

The report added that the vast majority (78 per cent) said they now avoided news on television and 55 per cent avoided looking at news websites or apps of news organisations.

Overall, 20 per cent of respondents thought that the coronavirus situation in the UK was on the ‘wrong track’, up from 10 per cent in mid-April. The majority of respondents say they either thought the UK was heading in the ‘right direction’ (30 per cent), down from 35 per cent in mid-April, or that the picture was mixed (45 per cent).

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