Covid-19 news and information: consumption and attitudes

23 February 2021

As a response to the Covid-19 outbreak, Ofcom is providing a range of information about how people are getting news and information about the crisis.

In late March, we commissioned an online survey of around 2,000 people every week. This continued until week 14 of lockdown (in June), at which point we moved to monthly surveys. We also provide key findings from other datasets such as BARB and ComScore.

We are publishing this under our media literacy duties, as part of our Making Sense of Media programme. This work furthers our understanding around the access, consumption and critical engagement with news at this time, recognising that habits may intensify or change given the nature of the crisis. For pre-Covid-19 news consumption and attitudes, please see our News Consumption Survey.

Given the increased concern about misinformation during this time, we are also providing information about fact-checking and debunking sites and tools.

Results from week 47

We have also published the following analysis:

Effects of Covid-19 on TV viewing (February 2021) (PDF, 235.1 KB)

Effects of Covid-19 on online consumption (February 2021) (PDF, 497.9 KB)

Ethnicity key findings

The findings below examine differences by ethnicity in the consumption of, and attitudes towards, news about the coronavirus.

These findings combine our fieldwork data from week 29 (October), week 33 (November) and week 37 (December). During these months, each nation implemented restrictions ranging from a tiered or levelled approach to full national lockdowns, and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK surpassed 1 million.

Consumption of news and information

  • During the period October-December, most White respondents (88%) and people from a minority ethnic background (84%) accessed news or information about coronavirus at least once a day.
  • Traditional media was the most-used source of news and information about the coronavirus by both White respondents (86%) and people from a minority ethnic background (75%).
  • Half of people from a minority ethnic background (50%), including 52% of Black respondents and 53% of Asian respondents, used social media as a source of news or information about the coronavirus, compared to one in three (33%) White respondents. People from a minority ethnic background (21%) were also more likely to share information about coronavirus on social media than White respondents (11%).
  • People from a minority ethnic background (26%) were twice as likely as White respondents (11%) to say that they rely more on people they know, people in their local area or people on social media for information about coronavirus. White respondents (57%) were more likely than people from a minority ethnic background (35%) to say that they rely more on media or official sources for information about the coronavirus.

Misinformation

  • People from a minority ethnic background (34%), including 34% of Asian respondents and 24% of Black respondents, were more likely than White respondents (31%) to say they had come across information or news about the coronavirus that could be considered false or misleading. White respondents (28%) were more likely than people from a minority ethnic background (23%) to say that they did not know whether they had come across this sort of information.
  • People from a minority ethnic background (56%), including 61% of Asian respondents, were more likely than White respondents (39%) to do something after seeing information that could be considered false or misleading, such as fact checking (done by 21% of people from a minority ethnic background and 12% of White respondents).
  • Where respondents had seen claims that could be considered false or misleading, people from a minority ethnic background (43%) were almost twice as likely as White respondents (24%) to agree that seeing these claims made them think twice about the issue.
  • People from a minority ethnic background (45%) were more likely than White respondents (35%) to be concerned about the amount of false or misleading information they may be getting about coronavirus themselves.
  • People from a minority ethnic background (60%) were more likely than White respondents (49%) to come across content on social media that had warning or notices saying that the information may be untrustworthy or untrue. When they came across these warnings or notices, 63% of people from a minority ethnic background said they clicked through to the content, compared to 51% of White respondents.
  • White respondents (81%) were more likely to agree with the statement, 'I think that untrue stories or items about Coronavirus should not be posted or shared on social media' than people from a minority ethnic background (74%).
  • People from a minority ethnic background (32%) were more likely to agree with the statement, 'I think that people and organisations have a right to say what they want on social media about Coronavirus, even if it might not be true' than White respondents (19%).
  • People from a minority ethnic background (26%) were more likely to agree with the statement, 'I think it’s OK for untrue stories about Coronavirus to be posted and shared on social media, as long as they are flagged as potentially untrustworthy/untrue by the social media platform' than White respondents (18%).

Previous results

Week 43

We have also published the following analysis:

Effects of Covid-19 on TV viewing (January 2021) (PDF, 259.4 KB)

Effects of Covid-19 on online consumption (January 2021) (PDF, 557.7 KB)

Children's News Consumption Survey: Covid-19 November/December 2020 key findings

As part of our 2020 News Consumption in the UK study, we asked around 500 12-15-year-olds about their use of, and attitudes towards, news content across different platforms during the Covid-19 outbreak between 1 and 20 April 2020. This period corresponds approximately with weeks three and four of the first UK ‘lockdown’. Between 24 November and 7 December 2020, we asked another 500 12-15 year-olds about their use of and attitudes to news content as the Covid-19 pandemic continued.

  • In November/December 2020 93% of 12-15s said they accessed news and information about Covid-19 in the last week, a small decrease from April 2020 (96%).
  • On average, 12-15s were using fewer sources for news about the coronavirus (3.7) than in April (4.5).
  • 56% of 12-15s said they got news and information about the pandemic from their family (vs 67% in April), 27% used BBC TV (vs 49% in April) and 17% used ITV (vs 30% in April).
  • Only ’school or teacher’ saw increased usage from April (17%) to November/December (37%).
  • Just over half of 12-15s (54%) agreed that there was too much in the news about the coronavirus, up from 43% in April, and 62% agreed that they found it hard to know what was true and what was false about the coronavirus, up from 52% in April.
  • In November/December 2020 we asked 12-15s whether they relied on the media and official sources or people they know (such as friends or family), including on social media, for news about the coronavirus. 42% said they relied completely/mostly on media or official sources, 26% relied equally on media and official sources, and people they know, and 31% relied completely/mostly on people they knew.

Week 37

We have also published the following analysis:

Effects of Covid-19 on TV viewing (December 2020) (PDF, 219.8 KB)

Effects of Covid-19 on online consumption (December 2020) (PDF, 394.2 KB)

Week 33

Covid-19 news and information: consumption and attitudes – results from week 33 (PDF, 226.4 KB)

We have also published the following analysis:

Effects of Covid-19 on TV viewing (November 2020) (PDF, 194.3 KB)

Effects of Covid-19 on online consumption (November 2020) (PDF, 422.9 KB)

Week 29

We have also published the following analysis:

Effects of Covid-19 on TV viewing (October 2020) (PDF, 217.8 KB)

Effects of Covid-19 on online consumption (October 2020) (PDF, 363.4 KB)

Week 25

We have also published the following analysis:

Covid-19 news and information: summary of views about misinformation (PDF, 341.4 KB)

Effects of Covid-19 on online consumption (September 2020) (PDF, 495.4 KB)

Effects of Covid-19 on TV viewing (September 2020) (PDF, 205.4 KB)

Week 20

We have also published the following analysis:

Effects of Covid-19 on TV viewing (PDF, 250.3 KB)

Week 14

We have also published the following pieces of analysis:

Covid-19 news and information: summary of views about misinformation (PDF, 284.1 KB)

Effects of Covid-19 on online consumption (PDF, 303.1 KB)

Effects of Covid-19 on TV viewing (PDF, 191.4 KB)

Week 12

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