Survey Finds Decline in COVID-19 News Appetite

(Image credit: Pew)

A new Pew Research Center study found some COVID-19 news fatigue and a major political divide over views of the U.S. response to the pandemic, depending on what news outlets were being watched or listened to.

The share of people following news about the pandemic dropped from 51% in early March when the country began to shut down to 35% in early September (before the President's diagnosis and the White House's emergency as a COVID-19 hotspot).

In fact, almost a third (31%) said they try to tune out news about the virus, with 43% of Republicans saying so while only 20% of Democrats try to tune out.

Related: Survey Says National Outlets Top Covid-19 News Sources

The survey, conducted Aug. 31-Sept 7 among 9,220 adults found that a majority said the country has not controlled the outbreak as well as it could have, but 40% still said the pandemic had been "been made into a bigger deal" than it actually ism though within that result was "deep disagreement" according to party and according to what media outlets they were following.

Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 68% said the country had done about as much as it could to control the virus, while only 11% of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents said that was the case. Two thirds of Republicans (66%) said the outbreak had been made into a bigger deal than it realy is, while only 15% of Democrats said so.

When Pew asked Republicans who rely on Fox News or talk radio (they were given eight choices) for virus news whether the U.S. about as much as it could, 90% said yes. But among Republicans who instead rely on one of the other major news providers, only 46% say the country has done as well as it could.

When Democrats who rely on only news from MSNBC, CNN, NPR, The New York Times and The Washington Post, 97% said the U.S. has failed to do all it could have to control the outbreak.

“While these findings do not prove partisans are taking cues directly from their news sources," said director of journalism research Amy Mitchell, "the data shows a clear connection between news diet and views of the pandemic, particularly among the GOP."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.