Increasing number of Brits avoiding news coverage over Brexit, report reveals

Coverage of Brexit on the front pages of newspapers in the early days. Photograph: TNE.

Coverage of Brexit on the front pages of newspapers in the early days. Photograph: TNE.

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Increasing numbers of Britons are steering clear of the news due to Brexit, a new report reveals.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism Digital News Report 2019 found that around a third of survey respondents in the UK (35%) were actively avoiding the news - an increase of 11 percentage points since 2017.

The report said 71% of avoiders tried to dodge Brexit news coverage "due to frustration over the intractable and polarising nature" of the political debate.

It also found that 58% of people said the news had a negative impact on their mood, and 40% felt there was nothing they could do to influence events.

The new report is based on a YouGov online survey conducted with 75,000 people in 38 countries.

It found that 65% of Remain voters avoided the news because of the negative impact on their mood, while 41% of Leave voters stayed away from coverage because they felt unable to rely on it to be true.

The report's lead author Nic Newman said: "People feel that the news has become really... depressing and it brings down their mood. They feel powerless to do anything about it."

Newman said that the high volume of media content could be "confusing and negative" for consumers and left them feeling "bombarded".

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Across the 38 countries represented in the report, an average of 55% of respondents felt concerned about the spread of misinformation.

In the UK, 70% of those surveyed expressed concern about their ability to separate what is real and fake on the internet - a 12 percentage-point increase over the last year and the highest jump out of all countries.

Newman argued there had not been an increase in false news reports in the UK, and suggested the trend could be a result of public attention on the issue.

He suggested that the rise of populism in Europe and protest movements such as the yellow vests in France, were also contributing to falling media trust levels.

"It's not just Brexit, it's a wave of concern about people being left behind, all these sort of issues, concerns, about the complexity of the modern world," he said.

One consequence was "a greater awareness and affinity with trusted news brands", the report found.

The trend is particularly notable among educated younger UK consumers with 39% of those aged 18 to 24, and 36% people aged 25 to 34, saying they had started using more "reputable" news sources - a subjective term left to respondents to determine.

Newman said: "Choice is great and having these news services is great, but you need to know where they are coming from, whether they have an opinion, and making your own choices.

"People are thinking more before sharing stuff that may be untrue," he added.

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