Medical Misinformation in the COVID-19 Pandemic
23 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2020
Date Written: June 10, 2020
The World Health Organization has labeled the omnipresence of misinformation about COVID-19 an “infodemic” that threatens efforts to battle the public health emergency. However, we know surprisingly little about the level of public uptake of medical misinformation and whether and how it affects public preferences and assessments. We conduct a pair of studies that examine the pervasiveness and persuasiveness of misinformation about the novel coronavirus’ origins, effective treatments, and the efficacy of government response. Across categories, we find relatively low levels of true recall of even the prominent fake claims. However, many Americans struggle to distinguish fact from fiction, with many believing false claims and even more failing to believe factual information. An experiment offers some evidence that corrections may succeed in reducing misperceptions, at least in some contexts. Finally, we find little evidence that exposure to misinformation significantly affected a range of policy beliefs and political judgments.
Keywords: misinformation, public health, public opinion
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