Report finds 78% of U.S. adults believe COVID-19 misinformation

Nov. 9, 2021

More than three quarters (78%) of U.S. adults either believe or aren’t sure about at least one of eight false statements about the COVID-19 pandemic or COVID-19 vaccines, with unvaccinated adults and Republicans among those most likely to hold misconceptions, a new Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor report shows.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of unvaccinated adults believe or are unsure about at least half of the eight false statements – more than three times the share of vaccinated adults (19%). Nearly half (46%) of Republicans believe or are unsure about at least half the statements, three times the share of Democrats (14%).

The findings, summarized in a KFF press release, highlight a major challenge for efforts to accurately communicate the rapidly evolving science about the pandemic when false and ambiguous information can spread quickly, whether inadvertently or deliberately, through social media, polarized news sources and other outlets.

The new report assesses the public’s awareness of, and belief in, a range of “myths” about the disease and the vaccines to prevent it. The most common misconceptions include:

  • Most (60%) adults say they’ve heard that the government is exaggerating the number of COVID-19 deaths by counting deaths due to other factors and either believe it to be true (38%) or aren’t sure if it is true or false (22%).
  • Four in 10 (39%) say they’ve heard pregnant women should not get the COVID-19 vaccine and believe it to be true (17%) or aren’t sure (22%).
  • Three in 10 (31%) say they’ve heard that the vaccine has been shown to cause infertility and either believe it (8%) or aren’t sure if it’s true (23%).

Many people believe or are unsure about several of the eight false statements, including about a third (32%) who believe or are unsure about at least half of them.

People’s trusted news sources are correlated with their belief in COVID-19 misinformation. At least a third of those who trust information from CNN, MSNBC, network news, NPR, and local television news do not believe any of the eight false statements, while small shares (between 11% and 16%) believe or are unsure about at least four of the eight false statements.

Larger shares of those who trust COVID-19 information from leading conservative news sources believe misinformation, with nearly 4 in 10 of those who trust Fox News (36%) and One America News (37%), and nearly half (46%) of those who trust Newsmax, saying they believe or are unsure about at least half of the eight false statements.

KFF press release

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