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COVID-19 misinformation remains widespread: report


Misinformation about the disease and vaccinations remains widespread, and correlated with party affiliation.

More than a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, misinformation about the disease and vaccinations remains widespread, and correlated with party affiliation, vaccination status and where people get their news.

Those are among the results of the latest Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor report released earlier this week. It found that 78% of U.S. adults either believe or aren’t certain about at least one of eight false statements regarding the COVID-19 pandemic or vaccines for the disease.

Among unvaccinated adults, 64% either believe or are unsure about at least half of the false statements, compared to 19% of vaccinated adults. Nearly half (46%) of Republicans, and 14% of Democrats, either believe or unsure about half the statements.

“The findings highlight a major challenge for efforts to accurately communicate the rapidly evolving science about the pandemic when false and ambiguous information and spread quickly, whether inadvertently or deliberately, through social media, polarized news sources and other outlets,” the authors note.

The most common misconceptions regarding COVID-19 and its vaccines include:

  • The government is exaggerating the number of COVID-19 deaths by counting deaths from other factors (38% believe it’s true, 22% aren’t sure)
  • Pregnant women shouldn’t get the vaccine (17% believe it, 22% aren’t sure)
  • Deaths due to the COVID-19 vaccine are being intentionally hidden by the government (18% believe it, 17% aren’t sure)
  • The COVID vaccine causes infertility (8% believe it, 23% aren’t sure)

COVID-related misconceptions generally align with which news outlet people find trustworthy for COVID-19 information, the study finds. For example, 46% of those who trust Newsmax, and 37% who trust One America News—both conservative-leaning outlets—believe four or more of the false statements, compared with 11% of those who trust CNN, and 12% who trust network news.

In addition, the news outlets people trust for COVID-related information line up with party affiliation. Among all those polled, 46% said they had “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in local TV stations, and 45% in network news. But broken down by party, 66% of Democrats and 34% of Republicans say they trust local TV news. For network news, it was 72% and 25%, respectively.

Conversely, 13% overall said they had “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in One America News and Newsmax. Those outlets are watched by 17% and 22%, respectively, of Republicans, but only 10% and 8% of Democrats.

Differences in COVID-related misperceptions are particularly stark when it comes to vaccine status and party affiliation. While 32% of those polled believe four or more false statements, the number rises to 64% among the unvaccinated, compared with 19% of those who’ve been vaccinated.

Similarly, 46% of Republicans, and 37% of independents, but only 14% of Democrats, believe four or more false statements. A divide also exists according to community type, with 44% of rural respondents, 33% of suburbanites and 26% of urban dwellers believing four or more false statements.

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