Conspiratorial Thinking, Selective Exposure to Conservative Media, and Response to COVID in the US

Conspiracy theories of anti-masking, anti-vaccination, and an overall lack of trust in the CDC have gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent study featuring PISC Senior Scholar Dan Romer, PhD, evaluates whether conservative media consumers are more likely to participate in these conspiracies. The team enrolled 833 participants within the United States in the study. Social media habits were assessed from March to November 2020. Media-use habits, belief in pandemic-related conspiracy theories, and adherence to COVID-19 guidelines were evaluated using a 3-wave longitudinal study. Results indicate that, overall, users of conservative media are more likely to engage in conspiratorial thinking, be ideologically conservative, and oppose pandemic prevention. Furthermore, although conservative media users supported vaccination at the onset of the pandemic, support for COVID-19 vaccination has rapidly declined among conservative media consumers. The team concludes that “these media beliefs in conspiracies pose challenges to the country’s ability to control a public health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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