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How do media affect people’s incentives to comply with lockdown?

Conservative media coverage during the pandemic affects negatively people’s compliance with the social distancing rules, suggests new US county-level study.

Media effect on people’s believes and behavior has long been studied by the economic literature. In a new working paper on the US, Leonardo Bursztyn, Aakaash Rao, Christopher Roth, and David Yanagizawa-Drott study how the variation in the information about the pandemic across different shows at Fox News affects people’s response to the pandemic policies and resulting health outcomes. They hypothesize that larger exposure to the shows, which downplay potential dangers of the coronavirus, is likely to undermine people’s assessment of risk and, through this, their willingness to adjust behavior in response to the pandemic.

To test it, they use both a survey and county-level data to capture differences in behaviour of audiences of two Fox News shows: Hannity (which toned down the risks in the early stages of pandemic) and Tucker Carlson Tonight (which was serious about the risks form the beginning). They find consistent evidence that greater exposure to Hannity relative to Tucker Carlson Tonight is indeed associated with more negligent behavior and a greater number of COVID-19 cases and death. They further demonstrate that differences in COVID-19 cases between the counties with greater viewership of Hannity vs. Tucker Carlson Tonight fade once  the tone of the former show becomes more concerned about the pandemic.

The paper can be found here.

Elena Paltseva,



Posted by Maria Perrotta Berlin


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