The proportion of people in the UK actively avoiding the news has risen during lockdown, according to surveys carried out by Oxford University.
Just over a fifth (22%) said they always or often actively avoid the news in the latest results of a survey, carried out between 16 and 22 July, that has been repeated fortnightly since April to track changing attitudes.
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News avoidance reached a peak of 25% in late May, up ten percentage points from early April which offered a snapshot shortly after the UK went into lockdown on 23 March.
The proportion of those surveyed who said they actively avoid the news has not dropped below 20% in recent months. Roughly the same proportion of people (21%) said they never actively avoid the news.
The figures have been reported by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, which commissioned the online surveys carried out by Yougov. A representative sample of the UK population has been used.
When people who said they sometimes avoid the news are included with those who said they always avoid it, the figure rises to more than half (55%) of respondents, and has remained between 50% and 60% since May.
The Reuters Institute said: “These high and continued levels of news avoidance are perhaps surprising when we consider that the reality of the Covid-19 situation, the news coverage of it, and people’s attitudes towards it, have all changed in recent months.
“We have seen a steady fall in the proportion of people who regularly access news about Covid-19 since mid-April, and there are some indications that the prominence of Covid-19 news coverage has also declined.
“For example, compared to April, fewer of the ‘most read’ stories from some of the UK’s most widely-used news websites are about Covid-19.”
The majority of those who avoid the news about Covid-19 said they do so because it has a negative effect on their mood (56%), the survey found. This is down ten percentage points on early May.
Among news avoiders, most said they avoided TV news (77%), followed by news websites and apps (51%), then social media (50%), print (48%) and radio (41%), the survey found.
The Reuters Institute said: “This difference may be because news sent via more personal means of communication is harder to avoid, but also partly reflects the fact that some sources – like television – are, according to Ofcom, more widely used for Covid-19 news in the first place.”
Because the surveys are carried out online they tend to under-represent people who are not online, such as older people or the less affluent, but offer a clear picture of the online population of the UK.