Misinformation During a Pandemic

118 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2020 Last revised: 17 Jun 2020

See all articles by Leonardo Bursztyn

Leonardo Bursztyn

University of Chicago - Department of Economics

Aakaash Rao

Harvard University, Department of Economics

Christopher Roth

University of Warwick, Faculty of Social Studies, Department of Economics, Students

David Yanagizawa-Drott

University of Zurich

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 15, 2020

Abstract

We study the effects of news coverage of COVID-19 by the two most widely-viewed cable news shows in the United States — Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight, both on Fox News — on viewers’ behavior and downstream health outcomes. Carlson warned viewers about the threat posed by COVID-19 from early February, while Hannity originally dismissed the associated risks before gradually adjusting his position starting late February. We first validate these differences in content with independent coding of show transcripts and present new survey evidence that Hannity’s viewers changed behavior in response to COVID-19 later than other Fox News viewers, while Carlson’s viewers changed behavior earlier. We then document a robust association between viewership of Hannity relative to Tucker Carlson Tonight and COVID-19 cases and deaths, both through a selection-on-observables strategy and through a novel instrumental variable approach exploiting variation in when shows are broadcast relative to local “prime-time” viewing hours. We assess effect sizes through a simple epidemiological model and provide additional evidence that misinformation is an important mechanism driving the observed effects.

Keywords: Media, Health, Coronavirus

JEL Classification: D1, I31, Z13

Suggested Citation

Bursztyn, Leonardo and Rao, Aakaash and Roth, Christopher and Yanagizawa-Drott, David, Misinformation During a Pandemic (June 15, 2020). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2020-44, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3580487 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3580487

Leonardo Bursztyn (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 E. 59th St
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Aakaash Rao

Harvard University, Department of Economics ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138

HOME PAGE: http://aakaashrao.github.io

Christopher Roth

University of Warwick, Faculty of Social Studies, Department of Economics, Students ( email )

Coventry, CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

David Yanagizawa-Drott

University of Zurich ( email )

Schönberggasse 1
Zürich, MA ZH 8001
Switzerland

HOME PAGE: http://Econ.uzh.ch

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