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Gallup poll: Americans reading fewer books than in previous years

By Rich Klein
Gallup poll: Americans reading fewer books than in previous years
A new Gallup survey finds many Americans read fewer books last year -- in any format, whether print, electronic or audio. File Photo courtesy of Amazon

Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Americans read an average of 12.6 books during the past year, according to a new Gallup poll released Monday.

That represents the lowest number of books read compared to any previous survey dating back to 1990, Gallup said. In three polls conducted between 2002 and 2016, Gallup surveys showed that Americans read an average of 15.2 books per year.

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"It is unclear from these data if the declines in book readership are occurring because of a lack of interest in books, a lack of time to read books, or perhaps COVID-19-related disruptions in lifestyle activities or access to books," the pollster said. "It is also uncertain at this point whether the declines in book reading mark a temporary change or a more permanent one."

The results are based on a Dec. 1-16 poll of a random sample of 811 adults living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The participants were asked how many books they "read -- either all or part of the way through" in the past year -- including electronic books and audiobooks.

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The decline in book reading is mostly a function of how many books readers are consuming, rather than fewer Americans reading at all, Gallup said in a news release issued with the poll.

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The 17% who said they did not read any books in the past year is in line with the 16% to 18% measured in 2002 to 2016 surveys, Gallup said.

Gallup reported that 27% of respondents said they read more than 10 books, down 8 percentage points since 2016 and lower than every prior measure by at least 4 points.

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College graduates, women and older Americans also are reading a bit less.

For example, those 55 and older went from a previous average of reading 16.7 books to 12. There has been little change in the average number read by those younger than 55.

The survey's margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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A poll from the Pew Research Center last week found that more people are reading electronic books, about 30%. That survey found Americans reach an average of 14 books last year in any format, the same as its findings in 2011.

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