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Why do people share misinformation about Covid-19? Partly because they’re distracted
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May 19, 2020, 11:14 a.m.
Audience & Social

British people are increasingly avoiding news consumption as the coronavirus pandemic continues to dominate all facets of life and news coverage, according to a study published Tuesday by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

The Institute surveyed 1,973 UK adults between May 7 and May 13 and found that there has been a “significant increase” in news avoidance, “with 22 percent saying they often or always actively try to avoid the news (up from 15 percent in mid-April), growing to 59 percent if those who say they sometimes actively avoid the news are included (up from 49 percent in mid-April).”

As one respondent said, “The news currently makes me feel incredibly stressed.”

When asked why they avoid the news, 66 percent of respondents said it was because it has a bad effect on their mood. Thirty-two percent said it was because they didn’t trust the news. Avoiders tend to mostly stay away from television news (78 percent), followed by news websites and apps (55 percent).

At the same time, when asked whether or not they found themselves actively trying to avoid news these days, 26 percent of women said yes compared to 18 percent of men.

“Given the increases in (unequally distributed) caregiving responsibilities during the lockdown, gender inequalities are likely to have increased even further,” the report says. “They compound existing gender inequalities in news consumption.” (We’ve seen this before.)

The Reuters Institute said the gender gap existed before the pandemic and noted that people between ages 25 and 44, some of might be parents with young children, are “more likely to say they always or often avoid news (28 percent) than adults under 25 (19 percent) and above 45 (19 percent).”

As of Monday, the UK has confirmed more than 246,000 cases of coronavirus and 34,796 deaths. These findings about news avoidance are the third installment of the U.K. COVID-19 news and information project, which is studying “how the British public navigates information and misinformation about coronavirus and about how the government and other institutions are responding to the pandemic.” The previous factsheet explored the public opinion’s on how the media has covered and critiqued the government’s response to the crisis. The next factsheet will be published on June 2.

Read the full report here.

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