Nearly half of survey respondents believe vaccine misinformation
|Press Release: The Media School
The Media School
Director of Communications
The Media School
For immediate release:
July 14, 2021
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Almost 50% of respondents to a recent Indiana University survey believe it is definitely or likely true that the Centers for Disease Control is hiding negative effects from COVID-19 vaccines, and close to 25% believe the vaccines cause infertility in women.
These beliefs are tied strongly to respondents’ political leanings, with more Republicans than Democrats saying they believe the false statements about the vaccine.
The survey is the seventh in a series of studies from Indiana University’s Observatory on Social Media. Data for the seventh survey can be found here, and a summary of the first six studies, which focused on narratives related to the 2020 presidential election, can be found here.
In the new survey, researchers showed respondents screenshots from social media representing two false narratives, then asked if they had seen the narratives and if they believed them. The narratives were “The CDC is hiding negative effects of COVID vaccines,” and “COVID vaccines cause infertility among women.”
About 47% of respondents thought that it was either definitely or likely true that the CDC is hiding negative effects from COVID vaccines, and about 25% believed the vaccines may cause infertility.
“It has become common to see concern with government honesty about public health measures,” said James Shanahan, one of the investigators on the study. “The CDC in particular has been a social media target, with its brand being successfully called into question in ways that seem to encourage vaccine hesitancy. It’s now a key part of some ideological identities to assume that vaccine science is politically motivated.”
The researchers also asked participants about their COVID health history and their vaccination intentions. Just over 15% of those surveyed had tested positive for COVID. About 65% of the survey respondents had been vaccinated at the time of the survey. Overall, 79% had either received the vaccine, had an appointment to be vaccinated or intended to get the vaccine.
Political party affiliation and ideology among participants correlated strongly with vaccine intention. Among those who identified as Democrat or Democrat-leaning, 95% had been vaccinated or intended to be, compared with 67% of those who identified as Republican or Republican-leaning. Similarly, among those who voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 election, 94% had been vaccinated or planned to be, compared with 66% of those who voted for Donald Trump.
“We should remember that vaccine hesitancy is not new,” added Shanahan. “Historically it’s a mode of thinking that has been able to gain traction on both sides of the political aisle, though today’s manifestation is largely on the right.”
The survey also showed that some participants believed the narratives even if they had not been exposed to them before, suggesting they might have heard about them from other sources or may believe them for other reasons. And it indicated that the interaction of exposure to and belief in the narratives is a strong predictor of which participants had been vaccinated or intended to be. Among those who had seen and believed the narratives, only about 57% had been vaccinated or planned to be. But more than 90% of those who did not believe the narratives shown in the survey, whether they had been exposed to them previously or not, were vaccinated or intended to be.
OSoMe is a joint project of the IU Network Science Institute (IUNI), the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research (CNetS) at IU’s Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering and The Media School at Indiana University, with support from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU Bloomington. It is funded in part by support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a nonprofit focused on fostering informed and engaged communities.
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