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Conspiracy beliefs about COVID-19 have increased among conservative and social media users

A study by researchers at the Annenberg Center for Public Policy (APPC) found that the belief in the COVID-19 pandemic conspiracy was early in the outbreak of the United States among those who reported being heavy users of conservative and social media. Has increased.

A previous APPC study found that people who regularly used conservative or social media early in the pandemic were more likely to report believing in the COVID-19 conspiracy group. Current research extends it and finds that reliance on conservative or social media actually predicted an increase in conspiracy beliefs from March to July 2020.

For example, between March and July 2020, the percentage of conservative media users who reported believing that the Chinese government created the coronavirus as a biological weapon increased from 52% to 66%. Conservative media included sources such as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Breitbart News, One America News, and Drudge Report.

In addition, these increases in conspiracy beliefs were associated with reduced mask wear and reduced intent to obtain the vaccine when it became available. Journal of Medical Internet Research..

“The media played a role in promoting or reducing conspiracy beliefs,” said Dunlomer, research director at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, co-authoring with APPC Director Kathleen Hall Jamison. “There were media sources that hampered the country’s ability to confront a pandemic.”

Some social media platforms have stated that they have downgraded or removed false or misleading content about pandemics, but continued use of social media has also correlated with growing belief in the COVID-19 conspiracy. It was.

Major social media platforms are whac-a-mole with providers of COVID plots. If you block their imagination in one place, they will reappear in another. “

Kathleen Hall Jamison, Research Co-author and Director, Annenberg Center for Public Policy (APPC)

Chinese Biological Weapons and Other COVID-19 Conspiracy Beliefs

In March 2020 and July 2020, researchers conducted the Annenberg Science Knowledge (ASK) survey of 840 adults in the same group using a national probability sample from the United States. Respondents were asked, among other things, about the beliefs of the three conspiracies, the use of media, the steps taken to prevent the spread of the virus, and the intent of vaccination.

In July, researchers discovered these levels of overall acceptance of conspiracy beliefs, and overall samples rated them as either “definitely true” or “probably true.”

  • 17% of adults in the United States reported that they believed that “the pharmaceutical industry created the coronavirus to increase sales of medicines and vaccines.” This increased from 15% in March.
  • 32% reported that some of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believed that from 24% in March, “the coronavirus exaggerates the risk of harm to President Trump.”And
  • 38% reported that they believed that the coronavirus was created as a biological weapon by the Chinese government, up from 28% in March.

From March to July 2020, conservative media users’ beliefs that the pharmaceutical industry created the virus rose from 13% to 28%, with some CDCs at risk of the virus damaging President Trump. The belief that it was exaggerated rose from 34% to 61%.

For example, in 2020 Fox News host Tucker Carlson frequently discussed the conspiracy theory that the new coronavirus was bioengineered in a Chinese laboratory.And Rush Limbaugh argued that “the coronavirus has been weaponized as yet another factor in defeating Donald Trump,” “it’s probably ChiCom.” [Chinese Communist] Laboratory experiments in the process of weaponization. “

Mainstream news sources

The use of conservative and social media was associated with increased belief in conspiracy, while the use of mainstream print media was associated with the opposite. Researchers have found that regular use of mainstream print media such as The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post predicts that beliefs in these plots will be diminished.

“When mainstream news deals with conspiracy theories, it’s not justifying them, but raising concerns about the implications of accepting them,” Romer said.

Those who relied on mainstream television news (ABC, NBC, CBS News, etc.) did not change their beliefs about the plot after controlling the use of other media. “People who get a lot of information from mainstream television news were also more likely to want to get vaccinated and wear masks, which has nothing to do with whether they believe in the plot. There wasn’t, “Romer said. “It worked independently.”

The findings show the importance of broadcasting mainstream television news to inform the country about effective means of combating a pandemic in the months March-July 2020.

Media and public health authorities

Researchers show that the findings “require greater effort on the part of conservative media commentators, reporters and guests to report verifiable information about the pandemic.” , Suggests that social media platforms need to be downgraded and more aggressive, claims about COVID-19 vaccines, claims about wearing masks, and conspiracy beliefs determined by public health authorities to be problematic To stop and counteract. “

At the same time, researchers said public health authorities trying to prevent the spread of the virus should “look for opportunities to provide users with accurate information about pandemics” on conservative and social media. Reaching mainstream news media users is also important. Because they are “less likely to agree with the conspiracy beliefs (in the case of printed matter) or to adopt protective actions (in the case of television news broadcasts)”.


Journal reference:

Romer, D & Jamieson, KS, (2021) Patterns of Media Use, Strength of Belief in COVID-19 Conspiracy Theory, and Prevention of COVID-19 in the United States from March to July 2020: Research. Journal of Medical Internet Research.. 96/25215..

Conspiracy beliefs about COVID-19 have increased among conservative and social media users

Source link Conspiracy beliefs about COVID-19 have increased among conservative and social media users

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