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Sunday, July 10, 2022

News Avoidance

Nic Newman at the Reuters Institute:

This eleventh edition of our Digital News Report, based on data from six continents and 46 markets, aims to cast light on the key issues that face the industry. Our more global sample, which since 2021 has included India, Indonesia, Thailand, Nigeria, Colombia, and Peru, provides some understanding of how differently the news environment operates outside the United States and Europe. 


While the majority of people across countries remain engaged and use the news regularly, we find that many also increasingly choose to ration or limit their exposure to it – or at least to certain types of news. We call this behaviour selective news avoidance and the growth of this activity may help to explain why consumption levels have mostly not increased, despite the uncertain times in which we live. The proportion that says they avoid the news, sometimes or often, has doubled in Brazil (54%) and the UK (46%) since 2017 – and also increased in all other markets (see next chart). This type of selective avoidance seems to be less widespread in Northern European countries such as Germany (29%), Denmark, and Finland (20%), as well as in some Asian countries such as Japan (14%).

The chart shows the proportion of Americans who sometimes or often actively avoid the news went from 38% in 2017 to 41% in 2019 and 42% in 2022.

Selective news avoiders give a variety of reasons for their behaviour. Across markets, many respondents say they are put off by the repetitiveness of the news agenda – especially around politics and COVID-19 (43%), or that they often feel worn out by the news (29%). A significant proportion say they avoid news because they think it can’t be trusted (29%). Around a third (36%), particularly those who are under 35, say that the news brings down their mood. Others say the news leads to arguments they would rather avoid (17%), or leads to feelings of powerlessness (16%). A small proportion say they don’t have enough time for news (14%) or that it is too hard to understand (8%). Concerns about the news having a negative effect on their mood are higher amongst avoiders in the United Kingdom (55%) and United States (49%) than they are elsewhere.


 Political allegiances can also make a striking difference to why people choose to avoid news. In the United States, those who self-identify on the right are far more likely to avoid news because they think it is untrustworthy or biased, but those on the left are more likely to feel overwhelmed, carry feelings of powerlessness, or worry that the news might create arguments.