Belief in conspiracies about the COVID-19 pandemic increased through the early months of the U.S. outbreak among people who reported being heavy users of conservative and social media, a study by Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) researchers has found.
Prior APPC research found that people who regularly used conservative or social media during the early months of the pandemic were more likely to report believing in a group of COVID-19 conspiracies. The current study expands on that, finding that a reliance on conservative or social media actually predicted an increase in conspiracy beliefs from March to July 2020.
From March to July 2020, for example, the share of conservative media users who reported believing that the Chinese government created the coronavirus as a bioweapon rose from 52% to 66%. Conservative media included sources such as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Breitbart News, One America News, and the Drudge Report.
Further, these increases in conspiracy beliefs were associated with less mask wearing and decreased intentions to get a vaccine when it became available, according to the study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
“The media played a role in the promotion or reduction of conspiracy beliefs,” says Dan Romer, research director of the APPC, who co-authored the study with APPC Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson. “There were media sources that hindered the ability of the country to confront the pandemic.”
Read more at the Annenberg Public Policy Center.