University survey suggests heavy news consumers practice more coronavirus prevention

UD COVID survey
​Courtesy of Jeffrey C. Chase and the Department of Communication Staff​/THE REVIEW
​The survey found that performance of coronavirus risk reduction activities varies by age group.​

BY
​Senior Reporter

According to a new national survey conducted by university communication researchers, heavy consumers of news media are engaging in more recommended coronavirus preventive practices than lighter consumers of news media.

Approximately 1,000 U.S. participants responded to an online questionnaire regarding their engagement in coronavirus risk-reduction activities. This survey was funded by the university’s Research Office, the College of Arts and Sciences and its nonpartisan Center for Political Communication.

On average, 75% of adults reported engaging in the majority of recommended social distancing behaviors like keeping six feet away from others and limiting trips to stores. Additionally, 67.5% reported habits like washing hands more frequently and avoiding face touching and 43% engaged in preparation behaviors like stocking up on food and medicine. Heavy viewers of news reported performing the most behaviors across all three types of risk-reduction activities.

The survey noted that it did not seem to matter where the participants were receiving their news from, and that consuming more news in general could be linked to coronavirus prevention behaviors.

There were also differences in people’s performance of prevention behaviors by age. Almost 83% of 18- to 29-year-olds reported engaging in five or more recommended hygiene practices, which is 24% higher than adults 60 and older in the study. The data also suggested that older adults reported engaging in fewer risk-reduction behaviors compared to those under 30, especially when it came to making preparations.

Survey respondents were asked to report their political ideology on a seven-point scale from very liberal to very conservative. Those who reported being “very to somewhat liberal” indicated that they were engaging in personal hygiene, preparation and social distancing behaviors at a higher rate than what was reported by self-described moderates or conservatives.

Although the levels at which people participate in coronavirus prevention behaviors varies by level of news consumption, age and political ideology, all survey participants reported engaging in reasonably high levels of risk-reduction activities.

The survey ran from March 20 to March 25. The poll’s margin of error was +/-3.16, meaning that the true percentage of people who practiced each behavior was most likely within 3.16% of the reported results.

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