All the News that’s Fit to Ignore: How the Information Environment Does and Does Not Shape News Avoidance

Benjamin J Toff, Antonis Kalogeropoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

In a fragmented digital media environment where news is increasingly encountered passively in social media feeds and via automated mobile alerts, active avoidance of news, rather than deliberate consumption, takes on outsized importance in shaping what it means to be an informed citizen. This article systematically evaluates the factors that predict news avoidance behaviors, considering both individual- and country-level explanations. Using a large-scale quantitative, comparative approach, we examine more than 67,000 survey respondents across 35 countries worldwide and find consistent evidence for how factors including demographics, political attitudes, and news genre preferences shape avoidance consistently across information environments. But we also show how country-level contextual factors, what we call “cultures of news consumption,” influence behaviors beyond that which is explained by respondent-level differences. Specifically, levels of press freedom and political freedom and stability are shown to negatively predict rates of news avoidance. These findings suggest that many people’s news use practices depend not only on personal characteristics and preferences but quite sensibly on the news available to them, which they may have good reason to view as deficient or untrustworthy, as well as culturally specific norms around its value and utility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)366-390
Number of pages25
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Volume84
Issue numberS1
Early online dateJul 10 2020
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.

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