New York (Trends Wide Business) – The information landscape about Covid-19 is puzzling, with factual and fictitious claims competing for people’s attention. And most American adults have heard at least a couple of fictions, according to new data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Kaiser, who is widely respected for his excellent work on this issue, tested eight false statements about covid. Nearly 80% of the Americans surveyed said they had heard of at least one of the falsehoods and believed it or were not sure if it was true.
“More commonly,” the report’s authors wrote, “6 in 10 adults have heard that the government is exaggerating the number of deaths from covid-19 by counting deaths due to other factors such as deaths from coronavirus and believe this to be true. (38%) or they are not sure if it is true or false (22%) “.
A third of those surveyed “believe or are not sure whether the government is intentionally hiding deaths due to the covid-19 vaccine (35%),” the authors wrote, “and about 3 in 10 believe or are not sure. whether COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to cause infertility (31%) or whether ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19 (28%). “
The researchers also found that “between a fifth and a quarter of the public believe or are not sure whether vaccines can hit you with covid-19 (25%), contain a microchip (24%) or can change your DNA (21%). ) “.
Microchips in vaccines, tracers, DNA changes – these outlandish ideas have clearly left an impression on a significant number of people. And media diets have something to do with it.
“People’s trusted news sources are correlated with their belief in covid-19 misinformation,” the authors said. “At least a third of those who trust information from Trends Wide, MSNBC, news networks, NPR and local television news do not believe any of the eight false statements, while small parts (between 11% and 16%) believe or are not sure of at least four of the eight false statements. “
That’s a positive sign – it suggests that traditional sources are helping people separate real news from noise and nonsense.
Only 11% of those who trusted Trends Wide coverage believed four or more false statements, the smallest percentage of all reported outlets.
But many Republicans are deeply suspicious of sources like Trends Wide and NPR. Instead, they gravitate toward Fox News and even more right-wing channels like One America News. And Kaiser found that “nearly 4 in 10 of those who trust Fox News (36%) and One America News (37%), and nearly half (46%) of those who trust Newsmax, say they believe or not. they are sure of at least half of the eight false statements. “
The researchers cautioned, however, that “if this is because people are exposed to misinformation from those news sources, or if the types of people who choose those news sources are the same who are predisposed to believe certain types of misinformation for other reasons is beyond the scope of analysis. “
The Washington Post called it “a sobering poll on the Republican Party’s acceptance of coronavirus misinformation.”
Reporter Aaron Blake followed up with Kaiser and concluded that the overall figures “obscure how open the right is to this kind of misinformation.” This is because, “in most cases, if you exclude Republicans who have not heard the claims and focus only on who is familiar with them, most of them actually believe those claims.”
It’s easy to see a relationship between this research and the current pattern of COVID-19 deaths in the United States. David Leonhardt of The New York Times wrote Monday that the partisan divide in deaths is widening, with residents in heavily Republican counties dying at rates much higher than those in Democratic counties.
Covid vaccines “are remarkably effective in preventing severe COVID, and nearly 40% of Republican adults remain unvaccinated, compared to about 10% of Democratic adults,” Leonhardt reported.
In the Kaiser research, unvaccinated adults were more likely than vaccinated adults to believe four or more of the eight false statements.
Sadly, the first World Health Organization warnings of an “infodemic” have proven to be correct.
“An infodemic,” the WHO said, “can intensify or lengthen outbreaks when people are not sure what to do to protect their health and the health of those around them.”
US officials like Chief Health Officer Dr. Vivek Murthy have been outspoken about the dangers of covid falsehoods. On Tuesday, his office launched a “community toolkit,” with a comic strip and illustrations, to help people identify and debunk health misinformation.