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Expand chart
Reproduced from Annenberg Public Policy Center; Chart: Axios visuals

People who rely on conservative media have much less confidence in key public health institutions and experts, and are much more likely to believe misinformation about the vaccine, according to a new study from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Why it matters: The survey finds a widening gap between Americans who trust key health institutions and those who don't.

The big picture: Trust in key institutions, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, Food and Drug Administration are still high overall. So is overall trust in Anthony Fauci, and overall confidence in the vaccines.

Details: The survey found that in June, 78% of the U.S. public said the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, up from 74% in April.

  • But the more ideologically conservative that people described themselves as, "the less likely they are to believe that it is true that it is safer to get the Covid-19 vaccine" the study found.

"When you begin to reduce trust in experts and agencies telling you that vaccines are safe, you're creating all kinds of susceptibilities that can be exploited for partisan gain," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Be smart: The survey also found that a growing number of Americans are becoming susceptible to conspiracy theories about the vaccine.

  • More than a third of Americans (35%) in June said they definitely believe that coronavirus was created by the Chinese government as a biological weapon, up from 31% in April. There is no evidence to support that theory.
  • "In the presence of statistical controls, those who say they rely on conservative media such as Fox News or very conservative media such as OAN are more likely to believe this conspiracy theory. Those who say they rely on mainstream media are more likely to reject this theory," the report found.

The bottom line: Experts say misinformation is one of many factors that can lead to vaccine hesitancy, along with a person's political affiliation, assessment of their own risk, access to vaccines and socioeconomic status.

  • The new study finds that some of these factors, like a person's political affiliation and their exposure to misinformation, may be linked.
  • "We know that ongoing exposure to a message that is consistent can harden existing dispositions," Jamieson said.

Go deeper

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Oct 26, 2021 - Health

FDA panel endorses Pfizer vaccines for 5-to-11-year-olds

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Members of the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine expert panel Tuesday endorsed a two-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5–11. The final vote was 17 members in favor, with one member abstaining.

Why it matters: While not binding, the decision is a long-awaited step toward getting COVID vaccines in the arms of some of the youngest Americans potentially in time to get many fully vaccinated in advance of the holiday season.

12 mins ago - Health

White House says Obamacare sign-ups hit record

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra speaking in the White House in December 2021. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The White House said Thursday that a record 14.5 million Americans have signed up for health insurance through Obamacare marketplaces since Nov. 1, including more than 10 million enrollments through HealthCare.gov.

Why it matters: Last year's stimulus bill contained substantial investments in the program, including increased subsidies for people who don't receive health insurance from an employer or through Medicare or Medicaid.

33 mins ago - World

Kremlin says U.S. written responses ignored Russia's main NATO demand

Sergey Lavrov. Photo: Dimitar DilkoffI/AFP via Getty Images

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that the United States' written answers to Russia's security demands do not contain a "positive response" to the Kremlin's top priority, which is a freeze on NATO expansion, according to Russian state media.

Why it matters: A spokesperson for the Kremlin stressed that no conclusions will be drawn until Russian President Vladimir Putin has time to analyze the papers, but a lack of movement on Russia's core concerns means the crisis over Ukraine is unlikely to de-escalate.