Studies assess level of COVID-19 vaccination misinformation

In one study by The Covid States Project, respondents were asked to identify four misinformation items as true or false.

Misinformation about the coronavirus vaccines is present on nearly every type of media, but a pair of new studies highlight the link between social-media consumption and resistance or hesitancy to get vaccinated among rural residents and other demographics.

The studies are a product of The Covid States Project, a joint effort of Harvard, Northeastern, Northwestern, and Rutgers universities, which has been publishing meaty, survey-based reports since April 2020. It also has a dashboard with state- and national-level charts detailing the percentage of residents who have recently gone out in various public places, who have recently been in an enclosed space with people who don’t live with them, and who have followed health recommendations such as hand-washing and wearing a mask.

Survey respondents were asked to identify four misinformation items as true or false. The vaccines 1) will alter DNA; 2) contain microchips; 3) contain tissue of aborted fetuses; 4) cause infertility. (The Covid States Project chart)

One study addresses the role of Facebook in vaccine misinformation and refusal. President Biden and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have criticized social media as a source of vaccine misinformation, which Facebook has denied. But the study found that people who rely on Facebook for news and information about the pandemic are substantially less likely than the average American to be vaccinated, the researchers write for The Washington Post. In fact, they found that those who rely on Facebook for such news are less likely to be vaccinated than those who rely on the often vaccine-skeptical Fox News. Even after weighting the figures to account for differences in social-media habits by rurality, rural respondents were more likely than suburban residents, and about as likely as urban residents, to say they didn’t intent to get vaccinated. Suburban and urban residents were more likely to report that they had already been vaccinated, which matches official vaccination data.

The other study focuses on how entrenched vaccine misinformation is among different demographics such as age, gender, race, income, educational attainment, political party, and rurality. Respondents were asked to rate four vaccine misinformation items as true or false (see chart above). Rural residents were less likely than suburban or urban residents to correctly identify all four statements as false.

The Covid States Project receives support from the National Science Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and Amazon.

Studies assess level of COVID-19 vaccination misinformation

The Rural Blog

The Rural Blog is a publication of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues based at the University of Kentucky.