This project seeks to understand political and health information seeking during periods of dynamic change. Such situations, exemplified but not limited to the coronavirus pandemic, necessitate that individuals and organizations make decisions based on incomplete, changing and often deliberately misleading information. Using the unfolding coronavirus pandemic as a case to study the broader phenomenon of information seeking and verification under conditions of uncertainty and rapidly changing information, the research project examines the interplay between political and health information seeking. Controlling for socioeconomic and other factors, we are particularly interested in how sources and channels used to obtain, verify, and update information influence individuals’ mental models and factual knowledge about the pandemic and appropriate responses.
The project is carried out be a network of researchers at four universities:
- Johannes M. Bauer, Quello Chair in Media and Information Policy, Michigan State University
- Bianca C. Reisdorf, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte
- Grant Blank, Senior Research Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute (OII), and Senior Research Fellow, Harris Manchester College, both at the University of Oxford
- Shelia R. Cotten, Distinguished Professor and the Associate Vice President for Research Development at Clemson University
- Anna Argyris, Assistant Professor, Department of Media and Information, Michigan State University
- Craig T. Robertson, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford
- Megan Knittel, Research Assistant, Quello Center
The team collected representative samples in the United States (N=2,280) and the United Kingdom (N=2,000) in October and early November 2020. We collected information on political and health information sources, including traditional news media outlets, social media, search engines, family and friends, doctors and other healthcare professionals, as well as government actors. In addition, we collect information on information updating and verification practices, digital literacy, and socioeconomic factors. Finally, we collected information on the state of knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic and of protective and preventative measures individuals were willing to undertake.