- Professor Rasmus Kleis NielsenReuters Institute, University of Oxford
- Dr Richard FletcherReuters Institute, University of Oxford
This project will analyse how the UK public navigates information and misinformation about coronavirus (COVID-19) and about the government’s response to the pandemic.
Alongside the coronavirus pandemic, societies are experiencing what the World Health Organisation has termed an ‘infodemic’. Information from public authorities is often filtered through editorialised news media and the algorithmic curation of social media. This research will track the evolving situation in real time and determine the factors that influence how informed people are, providing vital insight into:
- How people find information about coronavirus and about responses to it
- What sources of information they find the most credible, and whether they are concerned about misinformation
- How knowledgeable people are about basic facts about the virus
- How people are responding to the pandemic on the basis of this information
By using a nationally representative survey sample, the researchers will be able to control for the importance of factors like age, gender, education and political orientation in how people access and process information about the pandemic.
The project began in April 2020 and will initially run for six months, with the researchers documenting and analysing the findings in real time. The research will take place through ten fortnightly waves, with data collected through a series of online surveys in which the same respondents are asked questions over time. To allow for the rapidly changing nature of the pandemic and government responses, the panel surveys will be supplemented with shorter surveys asking topical questions about key events. The surveys will be designed by the research team and fielded online by YouGov, who maintain a very large pool of active survey respondents and can provide a sample representative of the UK population in age, gender, region and education. Ten fortnightly surveys will be carried out across a period of 20 weeks, with the expectation of retaining a minimum of 1000 respondents through all waves, achieving a reasonable margin of error and a robust base for the analysis of different demographic groups. The researchers are also monitoring key sources of online news and information about the coronavirus.
This research will provide timely data and analysis while the coronavirus crisis is still ongoing. The findings of each wave of the study will be made publicly available on the Reuters Institute website and will be promoted through social media and newsletters. The findings will be shared with key decision-makers in government, news media and the technology industry, all of whom the researchers have a long record of working with on issues around information quality and media use. The final conclusions will be published in several detailed public reports.