For Americans Quarantined at Home, Broadcast News Was an Information Lifeline and TV Content Viewing Rose
When the United States was in lockdown in April and May to prevent the spread of Covid-19, what effect did this have on their media habits?
To delve into this topic and others, we conducted an online survey of Americans aged 13 to 49. There were two waves of fieldwork, one in April and one in May, each with a sample of just over 3,000 respondents. Here’s what we learned:
Most Americans were “social distancing” in April and May, giving them more time at home. In May, 80% said they were actively keeping space between themselves and people outside their households. Additionally, 39% were voluntarily self-quarantining and 17% were under mandatory quarantine. May levels of social distancing and quarantining were similar to April.
TV news and social media have been Americans’ go-to sources for Coronavirus information. Among total respondents, TV news broadcasts have been the #1 place Americans turn for Covid-19 updates (60%), followed by social media (48%), websites (46%), and word-of-mouth (37%). However, when you break respondents out by age, people 35 to 49 were far more likely to watch TV news broadcasts than 13-17s (72% vs. 49%). Teens have been most likely to use social media to stay updated on the virus (57%). Many news sources were down 2 to 3 percentage points from April to May, possibly indicating that the need for constant updates has passed its peak.
Americans trust the news media for Coronavirus information, but not as much as public health experts. Close to 6 in 10 Americans (57%) trust TV news broadcasts’ reporting about the virus – substantially more than social media, at 35%. Interestingly, although 57% of teens use social media for news updates, only 41% say they trust it. Public health experts have been the most widely trusted source for Covid-19 news (88%), followed by state and local government officials (69%). Only 36% of Americans trust President Trump as a source of information about Coronavirus.
Quarantine has given Americans an opportunity to watch even more TV shows and movies. The activity that Americans were most likely to say they were doing more of was watching TV shows (69%). Watching movies increased almost as much as watching TV shows, mentioned by 63%, followed by using social media (56%), checking the news (48%) and playing video games (47%). While the increase in most activities was at similar levels in April and May, slightly fewer people said they were checking the news more often than usual (down from 53% in April).