COVID-19 (Mis)Information Exposure and Messaging Effects in the United Kingdom

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Politics

Abstract

Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic requires understanding what information people have about the disease, which misperceptions might be prevalent, and how officials can improve public knowledge and encourage behaviours that will protect public health. First, this study will measure beliefs and attitudes about COVID-19, providing a thorough map of accurate knowledge, but also of misperceptions, particularly those driven by conspiratorial thinking. Second, the study will catalogue the online sources from which our respondents get COVID-19-related information. This will allow us to gauge which accurate information sources reach a wide audience and which sources of online misinformation are systematically distorting people's views. Third, the study will test whether public health messages that seek to correct misinformation are actually effective in changing people's beliefs.

Behavioural and survey data will be collected in a multi-wave nationally representative survey that measures both prevalence of false and accurate beliefs about COVID-19 (including beliefs in misperceptions and conspiracy theories) and support for recommendations from public health authorities. To evaluate responses to information from public health officials, the second survey wave will include a randomized experiment evaluating the effects of messaging from health and medical authorities. Finally, the study will measure the quality of the information people consume online about the pandemic by analysing the behavioural data provided by respondents using a combination of human-coded and machine learning approaches. These data will make it possible to identify which groups are most frequently exposed to inaccurate or untrustworthy information about COVID-19, which should aid in the design of effective interventions.

Publications

10 25 50