Kaiser polled people about whether or not they believe seven widely held lies about the virus, among them that the government is exaggerating the number of deaths attributed to the Corona virus, and hiding reports of deaths from vaccines or that vaccines can cause sterility, contains a microchip minute or can alter DNA.
For people who trust most local television networks or news, such as NPR, CNN, or MSNBC, between 11% and 16% said they believed four or more of those incorrect statements, or weren’t sure what was true.
For Fox News viewers, 36 percent either believed or weren’t sure there were four or more false statements, Kaiser said. It was 46 percent for Newsmax viewers and 37 percent for those who said they trust One America Network News.
The most common lie is that the government is exaggerating Covid deaths. Kaiser said 60 percent of Americans either think so or say they don’t know if it’s true.
The sharp partisan divide in trust in news outlets has been evident for years, and Kaiser said this extends to Covid-19 news. Kaiser found, for example, that 65% of Democrats say they believe what they hear about Covid-19 on CNN, while only 17% of Republicans do. Nearly half of Republicans believe what they hear about the coronavirus on Fox, while only 18 percent of Democrats do.
The extent to which Covid-19 has become a political battleground is becoming clear almost every day. Recently, some Republicans complained about “government propaganda” after “Sesame Street” puppet character Big Bird tweeted about being vaccinated.
A Fox News spokeswoman did not comment directly on Kaiser’s findings on Tuesday, but did refer to several network figures who have spoken out in favor of vaccination. Recently, Neil Cavuto, who has multiple sclerosis, had the disease but had a mild case because he was vaccinated. He pleaded with viewers to get the shot: “Life is too short to be a donkey,” he said.
However, doubts about vaccinations and mandates have been a constant drumbeat on many of Fox’s shows.
Newsmax released a statement that the network “strongly supports the Covid vaccine, has encouraged its viewers to get the vaccine and has only medical experts on air who support the vaccine.”
The company last week took its White House reporter Emerald Robinson off the air for an investigation after she tweeted: “Dear Christians: Vaccines contain a bioluminescent marker called Luciferase so you can be traced.” It remained trapped on Tuesday.
Hamel said Kaiser’s findings on attitudes to people who haven’t been vaccinated illustrate the real challenge public health authorities face. Their distrust of Covid-19 news was wide and deep: The highest percentage of unvaccinated people who said they trusted what a media outlet had said about it was the 30 percent who cited Fox.
“The one thing I didn’t realize was how little trust across news sources was among unvaccinated people,” she said.
Among social media such as Facebook and Twitter, trust numbers were particularly small. But Hamel said that doesn’t mean social media hasn’t had much influence in spreading skeptical stories about vaccines.
The Kaiser Study was conducted October 14-24 on a random telephone sample of 1,519 US adults.