The Persuasive Effect of Fox News: Non-Compliance with Social Distancing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

51 Pages Posted: 17 May 2020 Last revised: 7 Sep 2021

See all articles by Andrey Simonov

Andrey Simonov

Columbia University - Columbia Business School

Szymon Sacher

Columbia University, Department of Economics

Jean-Pierre Dubé

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Marketing Science Institute (MSI)

Shirsho Biswas

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 4, 2021

Abstract

To what extent do mass media outlets influence viewers' trust in scientific evidence and compliance with behavior recommended by scientific experts? Exploiting the US lock-down period of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, we analyze a large longitudinal database that combines daily stay-at-home behavior from approximately 8 million mobile phones and local viewership of cable news networks. Early in the pandemic, several of Fox News' hosts downplayed the severity of the pandemic and the risks associated with the transmission of the virus. A combination of regression analysis and a natural experiment finds that a 10% increase in viewership of Fox News in a zip code causes a 0.76 percentage point reduction in compliance with stay-at-home behavior. The results imply a media persuasion rate that is larger than typical advertising persuasion rates on consumer behavior. Similar analyses using viewership of MSNBC and CNN, which supported lock-down measures, were inconclusive but suggested a smaller, positive effect on compliance with social distancing regulations.

Keywords: Media persuasion, misinformation, COVID-19, advice discounting

JEL Classification: D72, L82, I12, I18

Suggested Citation

Simonov, Andrey and Sacher, Szymon and Dube, Jean-Pierre H. and Biswas, Shirsho, The Persuasive Effect of Fox News: Non-Compliance with Social Distancing During the COVID-19 Pandemic (September 4, 2021). Columbia Business School Research Paper, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3600088 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3600088

Andrey Simonov (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Columbia Business School ( email )

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Szymon Sacher

Columbia University, Department of Economics ( email )

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Jean-Pierre H. Dube

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Marketing Science Institute (MSI) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138-5396
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Shirsho Biswas

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business ( email )

Box 353200
Seattle, WA 98195-3200
United States

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