May 20, 2020

Americans Who Rely Most on White House for COVID-19 News More Likely to Downplay the Pandemic

3. Some claims about COVID-19 treatments reach certain news groups more than others

Awareness of different questionable claims about the coronavirus varies depending on which sources Americans rely most on for informationWithin the near-constant flow of coronavirus news and information has been a stream of claims about possible treatments, causes or ways to end the outbreak – some with spotty evidence, some closer to speculation and still others deemed by experts to be actively dangerous. The survey asked about six of these claims to get a sense of how widely they have reached news consumers across the United States. Two of them in particular vary based on the sources people say they rely on most for coronavirus news.

Americans are most likely to be familiar with the claim that use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine could be useful in treating the virus – a claim touted by Trump and other prominent figures, though the drug was linked to dangerous side effects. While 44% of all U.S. adults have heard a lot about this, that figure rises to 60% among Americans who rely most on Trump and his task force for coronavirus news. Closer to half of those who rely most on national news outlets (52%) have heard a lot about this claim. The figure falls further to 45% among those who rely mostly on public health organizations, 40% among those who rely most on state and local officials and 28% among those who turn most to local news organizations.

Three-in-ten Americans overall have heard a lot about the use of a new, but not fully tested, treatment that uses blood plasma transfusions from recovered patients for patients currently suffering from the virus. Those who mainly rely on the White House for coronavirus news are more likely than other groups to have heard about this claim, though political party and ideology play more of a factor here than on other measures. Two groups less likely to have heard about this claim are people who rely on local news outlets and those who turn to public health organizations (such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). About a quarter in each group (25% of those who rely on local news outlets and 28% of those who rely on public health organizations) have heard a lot about plasma treatments.

Fewer differences by news source emerge around the four less commonly known claims, including that warmer weather could make the virus go away, or that there is a connection between coronavirus and 5G cellphone technology. And very few in any group say they have heard a lot about the idea of using diluted bleach as a treatment. (The majority of the survey was completed before Trump’s comments about using disinfectants to treat the virus on April 23.)

Confidence in at-home treatments for serious cases of the coronavirus varies depending on which sources Americans rely on most for informationAll in all, those who rely most on Trump and his task force and who rely on local news outlets place high levels of belief in the effectiveness of at-home treatments for serious cases of the coronavirus. Close to half (46%) of people in each of these groups say they think at-home treatments for serious cases are “somewhat” or “very” effective. That compares with closer to three-in-ten among those who rely most on public health officials (32%) or national news outlets (29%).

The coronavirus issues Americans are following differ depending on which source of news they rely on most

Americans overall are closely following a wide range of topics related to the coronavirus outbreak, with those issues varying depending on people’s primary news source.

Among those whose main sources of COVID-19 news are public health organizations and officials, it figures that most (60%) say they very closely follow news about current guidance from the CDC and other health organizations. About four-in-ten in this group say they are very closely following the health impact of the virus on people like them (42%), the economic impact of the outbreak (41%) and the number of confirmed cases and deaths (41%).

Those who rely most on Trump and his task force express greater interest in keeping up with news coverage of the economic impact of the outbreak, with six-in-ten following this topic area very closely. About half (49%) report very closely following federal government actions and statements related to the virus.

Other groups tend to most closely follow the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak and the “health impact of the coronavirus on people like me.” Around half of people who turn most to national news outlets follow each of these topics very closely. Those who rely most on state and local officials and local news outlets for COVID-19 news are less likely to closely follow some of the national topics but are more interested in certain local topic areas. For example, those who rely most on local news outlets or state and local officials for coronavirus news are more likely than other groups to say they are very closely following news about the availability of food and other essentials in stores. (You can see the full list of local topics asked about in the data tool.)

Those relying on public health organizations most likely to follow news about CDC guidance; those turning to Trump, task force most likely to follow news about economic impact of the outbreak