How News Feels: Anticipated Anxiety as a Factor in News Avoidance and a Barrier to Political Engagement

Benjamin Toff, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


This study uses an inductive, qualitative approach to examine the perspectives of lower- and middle-class people in the United Kingdom who regularly access little or no professionally-produced news. Findings suggest that people’s preexisting perspectives about what news is (anxiety-inducing) and offers for them (little practical value) play an important role in shaping attitudes toward news and subsequent behavior. These perspectives highlight the importance of emotional dimensions of news use beyond its presumed value as a source of information. While political communication scholarship has often treated news consumption as the cornerstone of good citizenship, we find avoiders hold uneven, weakly internalized norms about a perceived duty to stay informed, in part because they anticipate news will make them anxious without being relevant to their lives, resulting in limited engagement with news, and by extension, civic and political affairs. Promoting more informed societies requires grappling with these entrenched perspectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)697-714
Number of pages18
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from Google UK as part of the Digital News Initiative (CTR00220). The authors thank the anonymous reviewers as well as the research team at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism for their constructive feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • News audiences
  • anxiety
  • emotion
  • information seeking
  • political knowledge


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