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Issue Fatigue

Persons in Charge: Christina Schumann Project
Period: 2011 up to now

Currently, many countries face political problems that have been on the political agenda for a long time, such as migration flows, terrorism, right-wing-populism or climate change. Also news outlets cover these issues intensively. Studies on issue salience of news topics generally point to positive effects of such intensive news coverage, as citizens might judge such issues as more important than others or process the provided information more deeply.

However, as found out in a pilot study conducted by EMPK research group, a long lasting and intensive news coverage may also have negative effects: Citizens feel annoyed when confronted with such issues in the news and argue that they no longer wish to hear or see any related information about the respective topic anymore. This phenomenon was called issue fatigue. Currently, the research group realizes several research projects to study reasons, outcomes and development of issue fatigue, among others, on the topic “migration and flight”.

Existing results show that topic fatigue…

  •  is a widespread phenomenon and occurs toward various issues, such as migration and refugees, climate change, and the war in Syria or might be focused also on a specific person like Donald Trump,
  • is caused by a negative perception of the news coverage as “overkill” (quantity) and as being “unreliable and not trustworthy” (quality),
  • makes people avoid further news and interpersonal discussions about the respective issue,
  • Leads to citizens’ dissatisfaction with the performance of politicians and political processes dealing with the issues (=policy malaise).

Publications
Arlt, Dorothee, Schumann, Christina & Wolling, Jens (2020): Upset with the Refugee Policy: Exploring the Relations among Policy Malaise, Media Use, Trust in News Media, and Topic Fatigue. In: Communications - The European Journal of Communication Research. Schumann, Christina (2018). Is Topic Fatigue an international problem? Four theses. In: Global Media Journal, German Edition, 8(2). doi: 10.22032/dbt.37780 Kuhlmann, Christoph, Schumann, Christina & Wolling, Jens (2014): "Ich will davon nichts mehr sehen und hören!" Exploration des Phänomens Themenverdrossenheit. In: Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft, 62(1), S.5-24.