Use of conservative and social media linked with COVID-19 misinformation

People who relied on conservative or social media in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak were more likely to be misinformed about how to prevent the virus and believe conspiracy theories about it, a study of media use and public knowledge has found. 

Cartoon of a person wearing a face back wondering if they should panic while reading a tabloid newspaper with the headline reading pandemic alert covid-19.

Based on an Annenberg Science Knowledge survey fielded in early March with more than a thousand adults, the study was conducted by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The study, published in the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, found that there were notable differences in views about the coronavirus that correlated with people’s media consumption.

Conservative media usage (such as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh) correlated with higher levels of misinformation and belief in conspiracies about the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, including the belief that the Chinese government created the virus as a bioweapon and the belief that some in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were exaggerating the danger posed by the coronavirus in order to damage Donald Trump’s presidency. 

Social media and web aggregator usage was associated with lower levels of information and higher levels of misinformation about COVID-19, while mainstream broadcast and print media usage correlated with higher levels of correct information and lower levels of misinformation.

Read more at Annenberg Public Policy Center.