How Americans Consume News During COVID-19

By Collin Czarnecki

As news coverage surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, so too do the ways Americans search for news and consume it.

We surveyed 2,031 people to learn about their news consumption habits during this unprecedented time. Our analysis looks at the relationship Americans have with the media, including factors such as trust and the psychological impacts of non-stop coverage.

Covid-19 News Consumption

While many Americans became aware of COVID-19 in January and February, almost half (48%) weren’t personally concerned with the virus until March. During that time period, 66% say their news consumption increased and 50% have introduced new media sources or outlets into their routines. 

Local TV news, CNN and BBC were among the most popular sources and outlets that viewers hadn’t previously turned to for their news. Local TV news and CNN also ranked high among the overall most prefered outlets to receive news.

Trust in the Media

When it comes to trust in the media, 64% have looked for more trustworthy sources. National news ranks low in this category while the nation’s leading public health institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ranks at the top of the list as the most trustworthy source to turn to for COVID-19 news and updates. 

In terms of who trusts the media the most, millennials (68%) are the most likely generation to do so, followed by Gen Xers (64%).

Facts and Figures

Americans may be consuming more news, but when it comes to statistics regarding COVID-19 cases and lives lost, many were off the mark. 

When asked how many had tested positive for COVID-19, nearly 1 in 3 answered under 500,000. The real number of cases was 1 million at the time the survey was conducted. In terms of the number of lives lost, 23% answered under 30,000. The real number was 58,000 at the time the survey was conducted. 

When presented with a photo of him, less than half of Americans (40%) were able to accurately identify Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and a key figure in the coronavirus taskforce. 

Covid-19 and Social Media

Already a breeding ground for lively debates, tension surrounding social media has only increased during COVID-19. Despite a majority claiming social media causes more harm than good when it comes to getting COVID-19 information, usage has increased for two out of five respondents. Tensions have risen on social media, with many arguing with or unfriending friends (and even family members) due to disagreements.

Not only has coverage overwhelmed the news cycle, it’s also overwhelmed viewers. According to respondents, a majority say their mental health has been impacted by news coverage of COVID-19. In an effort to cope, over half of respondents have resorted to cutting back on their news intake and three out of ten have turned off the news altogether.


From April 28 to April 30, 2020, we surveyed 2,030 people to learn about their news intake during the COVID-19 pandemic. The average age of respondents was 39 years old. 51% were male and 49% were female. 44% identified as Democrat; 30% as Republican; 27% as Independent.

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