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News avoidance varies greatly for country to country. Why?

20 Oct 2017

29 percent of the respondents in the 2017 edition of our annual Reuters Institute Digital News Report said they often or sometimes actively avoid news. The share varies greatly from country to country, from a low 6 percent in Japan to 57 percent in Turkey and Greece.

Proportion that sometimes or often avoid the news - all markets

Looking across countries, the share of news avoiders is low in more stable, affluent, and egalitarian countries like the Nordics. In more polarized and unequal countries, the number of frequent news avoiders is higher, for example 38 percent in the United States, comparable to figures in Eastern and Southern Europe as well as in Latin America. Most of Western Europe has somewhat lower rates of active news avoidance, as seen in for example the United Kingdom (at 24 percent).

When individuals respondents are asked why they avoid news, the two most commonly named reasons are that news negatively affect their mood (48 percent), that they feel they can’t rely on news to be true (37 percent)., and that people feel that they cannot do anything about the things they see in the news (28 percent).

Reasons behind news avoidance - all markets

Broadly, the causes of news avoidance are complex and diverse. Clearly, the national context matters, with higher levels of news avoidance in countries with polarized political environments, widespread mistrust of elites and institutions, and many troubling and violent incidents covered in the news. But there is also a question about whether sometimes the journalistic tendency to focus on negative stories may contribute to news avoidance, especially if people feel they cannot do anything about the problems reported.

Read more about our work on news avoidance here.