The place do white evangelicals get their coronavirus messages from? Th …… | Information reporting
Given the claims of a "planemic" and other conspiracy theories, the need to provide accurate, trustworthy information about the corona virus is becoming increasingly important.
Leaders like Ed Stetzer have urged Christians to see what they believe and share, and fear that promoting false information can "harm others and … harm your witness," as he wrote on The Exchange's CT blog.
So where do believers look for information about the spread and risks of COVID-19? Recent poll data show that the sources of white Protestant Protestants do not always match the rest of the population.
While the majority of evangelicals and the general population believe public health officials have done a lot right in their response, according to a Pew Research Center, evangelicals are more confident in the Trump administration's response and less confident in the media than not – Evangelical survey conducted last month and provided by the Roper Center.
Evangelicals disagreed more about how the media reported the pandemic. 60 percent said it was well reported and 40 percent said it was not well reported. (For the rest of the population, the breakdown was closer to three quarters or a quarter.)
Overall, white evangelicals were more likely to believe that the severity of the COVID 19 threat had been exaggerated by a number of sources.
Around two thirds of white evangelicals said the news media had exaggerated or slightly exaggerated the risks posed by COVID-19. Just under half (44.5%) said the same thing about Democrats in Congress.
However, nearly two-thirds of white evangelicals believe that President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus was "about right". They are more confident in the President's response than in any other group, including public health officials such as those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 3 in 10 respondents who were not white evangelicals believed that the President's answer was "about right".
In comparison, the group that the general public believes has "done everything right" is public health officials, with nearly two-thirds (63.9%) in favor of their news. Non-evangelicals reported almost twice as often that the media reported the outbreak properly (42.4%) compared to white evangelicals (23.7%).
Evangelicals' perception of COVID-19 responses is related to where they are looking for information about the pandemic.
The Trump administration was named by white evangelicals as the source on which they would most likely rely as the main news source. National news channels and local news agencies followed. Public health officials were the fourth most consulted source.
National news came first for the rest of the population, followed by public health officials and local news. Compared to non-evangelicals, white evangelicals turned to elected officials and governors less often to get information about pandemics.
Overall, white evangelicals are more skeptical of the news media than the general public. Two-thirds believe that the news media have exaggerated the risk of the corona virus. They also express less confidence in public health experts to accurately convey information about the pandemic (53.6% vs. 63.9% of the rest of the population).
Politics is a factor. As most white evangelicals join the Republican Party, they tend to see Trump more positively and sources like democratic lawmakers and the media negatively, which Trump often criticizes.
The politicization of the virus was something that health officials were concerned about in the early stages of the outbreak. Before the current outbreak of the corona virus, survey data showed that political ideology had a greater impact on the concerns of the corona virus than belief. In mid-March I wrote: “Politically conservative Protestants who go to church often are far less affected by a major epidemic. … ”
If people get conflicting messages and can't agree on the severity of the coronavirus, it could be much more difficult to slow its spread and find a cure.
Ryan P. Burge is a lecturer in political science at Eastern Illinois University. His research appears on the Religion in Public website and he tweets @ryanburge.