Sur­vey finds con­fu­sion among pub­lic about pan­demic news

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By David Bauder

NEW YORK — For a story that has dom­i­nated the news dur­ing the past four months, a sur­vey out Mon­day il­lus­trates the dif­fi­culty many Amer­i­cans have in find­ing in­for­ma­tion they can be­lieve about the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

Three in 10 Amer­i­cans say they trust Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion to get the facts straight all or most of the time when talk­ing about

COVID-19, the Pew Re­search Cen­ter said.

“I can’t think of any prece­dent f or that,” said Dan Fa­gin, di­rec­tor of New York Univer­sity ’s sci­ence, health and en­vi­ron­men­tal reporter pro­gram, and a for­mer reporter. “There’s a rea­son why that num­ber is so low. Hon­estly, what dis­turbs even more is that there is 30% of the pub­lic who think they can be­lieve the pres­i­dent on this.”

The pres­i­dent and other lead­ers were crit­i­cized ini­tially for not tak­ing the threat se­ri­ously, for de­liv­er­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion about po­ten­tial treat­ments and, even today, de­liv­er­ing mixed mes­sages on the need for masks and so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

The Pew sur­vey found dra­matic dif­fer­ences in how the pub­lic as­sessed key sources of in­for­ma­tion on coro­n­avirus, said Amy Mitchell, Pew’s di­rec­tor of jour­nal­ism re­search.

A lit­tle more than half of those sur­veyed ( 53%) trusted the ac­cu­racy of in­for­ma­tion they were get­ting from gov­er­nors or state lead­ers, with 44% believ­ing the news me­dia.

Trust num­bers were higher for lo­cal me­dia sources, Pew said.

Nearly 2 of 3 Amer­i­cans said they had con­fi­dence in the in­for­ma­tion they were get­ting from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion and other health or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“What is en­cour­ag­ing is that peo­ple do have great faith in pub­lic health ex­perts,” Fa­gin said. “That’s why Anthony Fauci’s role is so im­por­tant and that it’s a great bless­ing that he’s been in­volved in all of this.”

David Ropeik, a re­tired Har­vard Univer­sity pro­fes­sor and au­thor of “How Risky Is It, Any­way? Why our Fears Don’t Al­ways Match the Facts,” said so­cial me­dia has mud­died the wa­ters with mis­in­for­ma­tion.

That’s il­lus­trated by Pew’s find­ing that 71% of Amer­i­cans had heard the con­spir­acy the­ory that the virus out­break had been in­ten­tion­ally planned, and that 36% said that is prob­a­bly or def­i­nitely true.

More Repub­li­cans in­creas­ingly be­lieve the coro­n­avirus is overblown, said Pew, which con­ducted an on­line sur­vey be­tween June 4-10 of 9,654 peo­ple in a panel of adults se­lected ran­domly.


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