“Health messaging, despite being one of the few effective ways to slow down the spread of the virus in the absence of a vaccine, is doomed to fail if the media prioritize political interests over population health,” mentioned study authors Erfei Zhao and Qiao Wu, who’re each PhD college students on the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology on the University of Southern California.
Among the almost 5,000 adults who participated in a web-based survey each two weeks from March to June, round 29% mentioned they trusted CNN extra than Fox; about half (52%) expressed no desire, and one in 5 (20%) mentioned they trusted Fox extra than CNN.
Devotees of Fox News persistently practiced extra dangerous behaviors — resembling going out to a bar or membership, attending gatherings of extra than 10 individuals or visiting others of their properties — than CNN viewers, the study discovered.
In addition, the study discovered Fox News fanatics persistently practiced fewer preventative measures — resembling sporting a masks, sanitizing palms, avoiding eating places and canceling social plans — than CNN followers.
“The most we can take away from the study is that there is a correlation between news preference (at the beginning of the study) and frequency of infection-mitigating behaviors — a relationship that strengthens over time,” mentioned Christopher Federico, who directs the University of Minnesota’s Center for the Study of Political Psychology, in an electronic mail.
“This ‘suggests’ that there is something about the different news sources that influences behavior, but we cannot conclude that for sure given the methodology,” mentioned Federico, who was not concerned within the study.
The study’s authors famous that the analysis was “observational, and as such, can’t establish cause.”
“That said, there is some evidence from other studies — using better methodologies — that exposure to Fox does have a causal effect on certain behaviors (e.g., voting),” Federico mentioned.
Trust in information appears to have an effect on habits
The new study analyzed knowledge from the Understanding America Study, an ongoing longitudinal nationwide on-line survey of roughly 9,000 US adults. Every two weeks from March 10 to June 9, individuals have been requested questions on how they’d protected themselves from Covid-19 over the past seven days, amongst different issues.
The remaining evaluation checked out knowledge from 4,863 respondents who accomplished questionnaires each two weeks with out fail.
CNN viewers have been most certainly to observe protecting pointers issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and others, adopted by those that had no desire of their media selection.
Viewers who trusted CNN for his or her information on Covid-19 engaged in a mean of three.85 preventative behaviors in the course of the study interval, whereas individuals who trusted Fox News took a mean of three.41 safety precautions.
Older Americans over age 65, which implies they’re in a better threat group in the event that they contract the virus, have been additionally extra prone to use protecting measures, as have been girls, the extra educated and people of non-Hispanic Asian ethnic backgrounds, in keeping with the study.
People with a job, however unable to do business from home, have been least prone to observe preventative behaviors, the study discovered.
Overall, Fox viewers engaged in a mean of 1.25 dangerous behaviors in the course of the study interval, whereas CNN viewers participated in 0.94 of such dangerous behaviors resembling going to different individuals’s properties and attending bigger gatherings.
While that may look like a small quantity by itself, including dangerous habits to an absence of preventative behaviors will increase total threat considerably, mentioned the study authors.
In addition, dangerous habits in Fox News followers elevated with the passage of time, the study discovered, with the very best ranges occurring in late May and June.
That’s revealing, mentioned CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter.
“This new study suggests that when Fox’s biggest stars listened to public health experts and echoed their educational information, back in March and April, Fox viewers listened and acted accordingly,” Stelter mentioned.
“When those same stars changed their tone and Fox ‘switched back to a more politically driven narrative’ in May, viewers also heard that loud and clear — and relaxed their safety precautions.”
Flu vs Covid-19
Early within the pandemic, Fox host Sean Hannity persistently in contrast Covid-19 fatality numbers with these of the seasonal flu, concluding that the novel coronavirus is much less deadly than influenza.
“Listen, even friends of mine saying is it really that bad?” Hannity requested Fox medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel on March 6.
“This virus should be compared to the flu, because at worst, at worst, worst case scenario it could be the flu,” Siegel replied.
“This was shockingly irresponsible stuff — and Fox executives knew it, because by the beginning of March, they were taking precautions that belied Siegel’s just-the-flu statement,” Stelter wrote in his new guide “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth.”
“The network canceled a big event for hundreds of advertisers, instituted deep cleanings of the office and began to put a work-from-home plan in place. Yet Fox’s stars kept sending mixed messages to millions of viewers,” he wrote.
“To make sure your viewers get an accurate idea about what goes on, you mentioned seasonal flu,” Fauci mentioned to Hannity.
“The mortality for seasonal flu is 0.1. The mortality for this is about 2, 2.5%. It’s probably lower than that, it’s probably closer to 1. But even if it’s 1 (percent) it’s ten times more lethal than the seasonal flu,” Fauci mentioned.
The impression of extra media sources
Additional analysis exhibits an affiliation between use of just one media supply and perception construction in regards to the pandemic.
But when those self same Republican-leaning viewers relied on not less than one in all different main information suppliers, solely 46% mentioned the US managed the outbreak in addition to it might.
The surveys confirmed “a clear connection between news diet within the GOP and views on the pandemic,” the authors mentioned.
“Many millions of viewers take their cues from Fox. That’s why it was so dangerous when commentators and hosts pooh-poohed the severity of the pandemic and treated it more like a political spat than a medical emergency,” Stelter mentioned.
“Fox’s coverage misinformed President Trump and millions of other people. And this isn’t just a past-tense story — it is still happening today.”
It’s time for the media to take duty for his or her habits, mentioned the USC study authors.
“Not only do politically driven narratives lead to biased health messaging, but also people may actively filter out the information that does not match their political leanings,” they added.
“Media should reduce their partisan stance on health information so that they do not cloud the public’s judgment during a health crisis.”