New Publication: Intentional News Avoidance vs. Low News Consumption


Dominika Betakova, Hajo Boomgaarden, Sophie Lecheler and Svenja Schäfer published their article "I Do Not (Want To) Know! The Relationship Between Intentional News Avoidance and Low News Consumption” in Mass Communication & Society (open-access).

Full Article.

Their cross-sectional study focuses on disentangling two types of news avoidance: intentional news avoidance and low news consumption. In addition, it also looks at which perceptions of media and politics predict intentional news avoidance or low news consumption (or both).

Results in a nutshell:

Our colleagues have found that 15.39 % of Austrians (N=1,007) can be categorized as high intentional news avoiders, while 15.69 % as low news consumers. Interestingly, echoing previous research, these do not seem to be the same people. When they looked at predictors of high intentional news avoidance and low news consumption, both types of news avoidance share common predictors like lower perception of civic duty to keep informed and lower political interest. However, there are notable differences. Specifically, high intentional news avoidance in Austria is linked to younger age, higher internal political efficacy and higher perception of news negativity. On the other hand, low news consumption is associated with low income and lower media and political trust. This supports the notion that low news consumption reflects a general detachment from media and politics, while intentional news avoidance stems from the need to take a break from the emotionally burdensome news. Regarding the intersection of high intentional news avoidance and low news consumption, the authors created four groups of news (non-)users based on the combination of intentionality (high/average or low) and news consumption (high or average/low). Interestingly, only 27.22 % of self-reported low news consumption is intentional, meaning most people who consume little to no news do not report doing so on purpose, corroborating previous findings.

Concerning the factors that raise the probability of belonging to one of four news (non-)user groups, intentionally low news consumer is more likely to be a woman, have lower political interest and political trust and exhibit a lower sense of civic duty to keep informed, echoing the importance of addressing structural inequalities and early news socialization when it comes to this type of news avoidance. Secondly, there is a sizable group of citizens with low news consumption but without intentional news avoidance. Factors associated with this behavior include low income, lower internal political efficacy, and unexpectedly lower perceived news negativity. This also suggests the importance of structural or habitual factors in addressing this type of news avoidance. The third group consists of intentional news avoiders who maintain high or average news consumption, accounting for 72.26% of intentional news avoiders in our sample. This group tends to be younger, perceives the news as overly negative and even reports experiencing physical reactions to it (e.g., trouble falling asleep) while not perceiving following the news as their civic duty. Lastly, individuals who consume news without avoiding it tend to have high income, higher political interest, a stronger sense of civic duty to keep informed, and do not perceive news as negative.