Americans aren’t the voracious consumers of news they were during the Trump administration. Since 2018, the Knight Foundation and Gallup have asked a representative subsection of American adults how much news they are consuming. Between 2020 and 2021, the number who said they paid a “great deal” of attention to national news fell precipitously from 54% in November 2020 to 33% in December 2021. That is the lowest point since Knight and Gallup began surveying in 2018.
The drop in interest was most pronounced for domestic news. The share of Americans who report consuming a great deal of local and international news remained the same, at 21% and 12% respectively, between 2020 and 2021.
The decline cut across partisan lines, but the downturn was most pronounced among Democrats—especially young Democrats. The number of Democrats who considered themselves avid news watches halved from 69% in 2020 to 34% in 2021. Among independents, the share that said they paid attention to national news fell from 44% to 29% and among Republicans, the share fell from 45% to 40%.
The end of the Trump bump
Knight and Gallup suggest a possible case of news “burnout” is afflicting Americans after years of stress-watching, stress-reading, or stress-listening to news about political and public health crises. The drop in voracious news consumption between 2020 and 2021 appears to hinge on two major factors.
First, Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the presidential election and began his first term. It’s not a stretch to say that Biden’s first year in office has been far less scandal-prone than the former president’s time in office, signaling an end to the well-documented bump in news consumption during the last presidency.
Second, the coronavirus pandemic has garnered less interest from news consumers in its second year, especially as vaccines have become widely available in the US and most businesses have reopened. Even since the Delta variant hit the US in August 2021, interest in coronavirus news has waned.
It’s no wonder Americans are tuning out.