New poll shows Americans who trust conservative media are more likely to believe COVID-19 misinformation

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A new poll has found that Americans who consume more right-wing media are much more likely to believe misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccine against it.

In a survey released Monday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, respondents were asked about eight different misconceptions about the pandemic, ranging from “The government is exaggerating the number of deaths from COVID-19” to “COVID-19 vaccines may change your DNA ”. The survey found that 78 percent of Americans believe or aren’t sure of at least one of the statements. However, the numbers varied widely depending on party affiliation, vaccination status and source of information.

Employees and supporters of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in California hold signs reading “No vax warrants”;  and “Freedom of medical choice.”

Employees and supporters of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in California protest against the vaccination warrants on November 8. (Will Lester / MediaNews Group / Inland Valley Daily Bulletin via Getty Images)

Some 64 percent of unvaccinated respondents believed or weren’t sure about at least four of the false claims, compared with 19 percent of those vaccinated. Only 6 percent of Republicans polled did not believe or weren’t sure of any of the statements, compared to 22 percent of independents and 38 percent of Democrats.

Some of the biggest differences have come from where Americans got their news. Those who received their information from right-wing media Newsmax, One America News Network, and Fox News were much more likely to believe or not be sure of the false statements than those who received their information from local news broadcasts, NPR, MSNBC, news from the network or CNN. Only 12% of those who viewed Fox News as a reliable source of information did not believe any of the false statements, compared with 40% of those who trusted CNN, 38% who trusted the news on the network and 32 % who trusted local news.

The other COVID-19 statements made by Kaiser – in order of whether people believed them or weren’t sure – were “Pregnant women should not get the COVID-19 vaccine,” “Deaths due to the COVID-19 vaccine are intentionally hidden by the government ”,“ COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to cause infertility ”,“ Ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19 ”,“ You can get COVID-19 from vaccine ”and“ COVID-19 vaccines contain microchip.

Since the pandemic began in 2020, conservative media have played down the virus and questioned methods recommended by public health experts to combat it, from masking to vaccine. Fox News hosts raised anti-vax voices while promoting drugs like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, a drug prescribed as an antimalarial in humans but also as a dewormer in cattle.

Ivermectin tablets.

Ivermectin tablets. (Soumyabrata Roy / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In July, the White House said it was in “regular contact” with Fox News and understood “the importance of reaching out to Fox’s public about COVID-19 vaccines and their benefits.” According to Kaiser’s follow-up, as of last month, 40% of Republicans said they probably would not or definitely not get vaccinated, compared with 9% of Democrats and 24% of Independents who said the same.

Misinformation about the virus and the vaccine has proven to be increasingly deadly. On Monday, the New York Times released data showing that the death gap between counties that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2020 and those that voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden continued to widen. In October, the death rate in Trump counties was three times that of Biden counties, the fifth consecutive month the gap had widened. The partisan gap between new COVID cases, however, has narrowed from its peak earlier this year as cases across the country decline.

See how the Delta variant correlates with the national political landscape in this immersive 3D experience from the Yahoo team.


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