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Misinformation During a Pandemic

Leonardo Bursztyn, Aakaash Rao (), Christopher Roth and David Yanagizawa-Drott ()
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Aakaash Rao: Harvard University

No 2020-44, Working Papers from Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics

Abstract: We study the effects of news coverage of COVID-19 by the two most widely-viewed cable news shows in the United States ÑHannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight, both on Fox News Ñ on viewersÕ behavior and downstream health outcomes. Carlson warned viewers about the threat posed by COVID-19 from early February, while Hannity originally dismissed the associated risks before gradually adjusting his position starting late February. We first validate these differences in content with independent coding of show transcripts and present new survey evidence that HannityÕs viewers changed behavior in response to COVID-19 later than other Fox News viewers, while CarlsonÕs viewers changed behavior earlier. We then document a robust association between viewership of Hannity relative to Tucker Carlson Tonight and COVID-19 cases and deaths, both through a selection-on-observables strategy and through a novel instrumental variable approach exploiting variation in when shows are broadcast relative to local Òprime-timeÓ viewing hours. We assess effect sizes through a simple epidemiological model and provide additional evidence that misinformation is an important mechanism driving the observed effects.

Keywords: Media; Health; Coronavirus (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D1 I31 Z13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 116 pages
Date: 2020
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-dem and nep-hea
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Related works:
Working Paper: Misinformation During a Pandemic (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: Misinformation During a Pandemic (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: Misinformation during a Pandemic (2020) Downloads
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