Public health requires collective action—the public best addresses health crises when individuals engage in prosocial behaviors. Failure to do so can have dire societal and economic consequences. This was made clear by the disjointed, politicized response to COVID-19 in the United States. Perhaps no aspect of the pandemic exemplified this challenge more than the sizeable percentage of individuals who delayed or refused vaccination. While scholars, practitioners, and the government devised a range of communication strategies to persuade people to get vaccinated, much less attention has been paid to where the unvaccinated could be reached. We address this question using multiple waves of a large national survey as well as various secondary data sets. We find that the vaccine resistant seems to predictably obtain information from conservative media outlets (e.g. Fox News) while the vaccinated congregate around more liberal outlets (e.g. MSNBC). We also find consistent evidence that vaccine-resistant individuals often obtain COVID-19 information from various social media, most notably Facebook, rather than traditional media sources. Importantly, such individuals tend to exhibit low institutional trust. While our results do not suggest a failure of sites such as Facebook's institutional COVID-19 efforts, as the counterfactual of no efforts is unknown, they do highlight an opportunity to reach those who are less likely to take vital actions in the service of public health.
Green, Jon, James N. Druckman, Matthew A. Baum, Katherine Ognyanova, Matthew D. Simonson, Roy H. Perlis, and David Lazer. "Media use and vaccine resistance." PNAS Nexus 2.5 (May 2023): pgad146.