Dem 51
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GOP 49
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No News Is the New News

There have never been more ways to get the news. There's regular television, cable television, radio, newspapers, and thousands of sites on the Internet, just for starters. You can get news on your watch if you buy a smart watch. But some people are finding the news so upsetting they are swearing off it and are going news-free. Rather than be depressed by what is going on in the country and the world, they just tune it all out.

The number of news drop-outs has become so large that it has become a major problem for the news business. MSNBC and CNN saw their number of viewers drop 8.4% in June compared to June 2022, even though viewership normally picks up as the election cycle heats up. This year they had 7% fewer viewers in Q2 than in Q1. Digital news sites also have less traffic now. The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal are down 20%, 15%, and 14%, respectively, compared to a year ago.

The Reuters Institute at Oxford has been studying news consumption for years. In the most recent survey, 41% of women and 34% of men say they sometimes or often avoid the news. The proportion of people who are very interested or extremely interested in the news is down from 67% in 2015 to 49% now. People are saying that news drives feelings of depression, anger, anxiety, or helplessness. Some people say it feels like a personal threat. They say the only thing you can do is ignore it and go for a walk.

Other people are now more selective. They watch television, but when a story they don't like comes on, they switch channels. Or they read only print articles whose headline appeals to them. About 43% of news avoiders skip national politics, 41% avoid stories on social justice, 40% ignore entertainment news, and 32% avoid stories on the war in Ukraine. Put slightly differently, a lot of people think national politics is more toxic than people being killed in Ukraine.

Personal politics plays a big role here. Conservatives are 5x more likely to skip stories on climate change than liberals, but liberals skip stories about crime and business.

News avoidance is a result of a built-in problem. A lot of news is about something unusual. A plane that crashes or a country at war gets a lot more attention than a plane that landed normally or a country at peace. Sometimes the news is good, such as a scientist discovering a new and effective treatment for some disease, but a lot of it is inherently negative and that is turning people off. (V)

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