The KFF provides reliable, accurate, and non-partisan information to help inform health policy in the US. The KFF has just released its ‘Health Misinformation Tracking Poll Pilot‘ examining the public’s media use and trust in sources of health information and measuring the reach of specific false and inaccurate claims surrounding three health-related topics: COVID-19 and vaccines, reproductive health, and gun violence. It makes grimm reading indeed. Here are but a few excerpts pertaining to health/vaccination:
Health misinformation is widespread in the US with 96% of adults saying they have heard at least one of the ten items of health-related misinformation asked about in the survey. The most widespread misinformation items included in the survey were related to COVID-19 and vaccines, including that the COVID-19 vaccines have caused thousands of deaths in otherwise healthy people (65% say they have heard or read this) and that the MMR vaccines have been proven to cause autism in children (65%).
Regardless of whether they have heard or read specific items of misinformation, the survey also asked people whether they think each claim is definitely true, probably true, probably false, or definitely false. For most of the misinformation items included in the survey, between one-fifth and one-third of the public say they are “definitely” or “probably true.” The most frequently heard claims are related to COVID-19 and vaccines.
Uncertainty is high when it comes to health misinformation. While fewer than one in five adults say each of the misinformation claims examined in the survey are “definitely true,” larger shares are open to believing them, saying they are “probably true.” Many lean towards the correct answer but also express uncertainty, saying each claim is “probably false.” Fewer tend to be certain that each claim is false, with the exception of the claim that more people have died from the COVID-19 vaccines than from the virus itself, which nearly half the public (47%) recognizes as definitely false.
Across the five COVID-19 and vaccine related misinformation items, adults without a college degree are more likely than college graduates to say these claims are definitely or probably true. Notably, Black adults are at least ten percentage points more likely than White adults to believe some items of vaccine misinformation, including that the COVID-19 vaccines have caused thousands of sudden deaths in otherwise healthy people, and that the MMR vaccines have been proven to cause autism in children. Black (29%) and Hispanic (24%) adults are both more likely than White adults (17%) to say that the false claim that “more people have died from the COVID-19 vaccine than have died from the COVID-19 virus” is definitely or probably true. Those who identify as Republicans or lean towards the Republican Party and pure independents stand out as being more likely than Democratic leaning adults to say each of these items is probably or definitely true. Across community types, rural residents are more likely than their urban and suburban counterparts to say that some false claims related to COVID vaccines are probably or definitely true, including that the vaccines have been proven to cause infertility and that more people have died from the vaccine than from the virus.
Educational attainment appears to play a particularly important role when it comes to susceptibility to COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation. Six in ten adults with college degrees say none of the five false COVID-19 and vaccine claims are probably or definitely true, compared to less than four in ten adults without a degree. Concerningly, about one in five rural residents (19%), adults with a high school education or less (18%), Black adults (18%), Republicans (20%), and independents (18%) say four or five of the false COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation items included in the survey are probably or definitely true.
If you have followed some of the comments on this blog, you might find it hard to be surprised!
I do encourage you to read the full article.