14 December 2020

Mistrust of government and science linked to believing misinformation

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14 December


  • People who don’t perceive COVID-19 to be a significant threat or who have lower confidence in government and scientific institutions are more likely to agree with misinformation and conspiracy theories about the pandemic, Australian researchers have found.
    An online survey of more than 4300 Australians, published in non-peer-reviewed preprint form by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, explored their beliefs in COVID-19 misinformation as well as other variables such as digital health literacy, trust in institutions and government, and demographic factors.
    This revealed that one month into the first lockdown in Australia, 15% believe that herd immunity would be beneficial for COVID-19 but this was ‘covered up’, nearly 14% felt the threat of COVID-19 was greatly exaggerated, and more than 17% believe that data on the effectiveness of vaccines in general was often made up.
    These misinformation beliefs were significantly associated with lower digital health literacy, lower perceived threat from COVID-19, lower confidence in government and lower trust in scientific institutions.
    Those who agree with misinformation were also more likely to be younger, male, have a lower level of education, and from non-English-speaking backgrounds.
    The study also saw an increase from April to May in belief that the threat of COVID-19 was exaggerated, but a decrease in belief that herd immunity was beneficial for COVID-19 but covered up.
    “In efforts to pre and debunk misinformation, public health authorities must urgently build new partnerships with trusted, influential stakeholders and social media companies to reach the groups identified in this study,” the authors wrote.
  • Victorians will be rightly disappointed to see their well-earned ‘zero new infection’ status change, but will hopefully also be reassured by the fact that the new cases are all returned travellers in quarantine.
    Here are the latest confirmed COVID-19 infection numbers from around Australia to 9pm Sunday:
    National – 28,031 with 908 deaths
    ACT – 117 (1)
    NSW – 4642 (3)
    NT – 63 (1)
    QLD – 1226 (0)
    SA – 562 (0)
    TAS – 234 (0)
    VIC – 20,351 (1)
    WA – 836 (1)
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