30 Percent Of America Strikes Again, Thinks COVID-19 Vaccine Exists And Is Being Covered Up
A few weeks ago, Pew Research published a poll finding that 30 percent of Americans erroneously believed that coronavirus was "created in a lab." This week, a poll conducted by Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project with USA TODAY meant to track the spread of misinformation about coronavirus found that 30 percent of Americans believe that there is already a vaccine for COVID-19 but that it is being withheld. Even more people, 32 percent of those surveyed, believe that a cure exists but is being withheld. For reasons. What reasons? We don't know. Perhaps it is all a part of Bill Gates's non-existent plan to depopulate the earth. (Yeah, that's a thing people believe now also, we'll get into it another time.)
Is this the same 30 percent of Americans who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible? The same 30 percent of Americans who believe in chemtrails? The same 30 percent who think Trump is doing a swell job with this coronavirus stuff? We can't be sure, but it seems likely that there's a lot of crossover. But just in general, judging by the steady 30 percent of Americans who believe ridiculous things, these results are not terribly surprising.
And yet, to some, they were:
"To see about a third of people give that some level of, 'Yeah, that might be true,' that was pretty shocking to me," said Robert Griffin, research director for the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group. "That's a pretty dark type of thought to be floating around the public. There's an undercurrent of a lack of trust in society, a lack of trust in elites."
He added: "You could sort of see how that could suggest sort of a rather nefarious bit of actions on the part of a wide variety of actors within society if people are truly holding onto that idea."
Where the hell has he been? Also "a lack of trust in the elites" is a really weird way to put things. I think it's fair to say that once someone is calling someone else "an elite" in that way, trust has already gone out the window.
The study, conducted in the first week of April, also found that the number of Americans who believe that COVID-19 was created in a lab has increased — and includes a not-insignificant share of Democrats.
The survey found 44% of Americans believe the coronavirus was probably created in a a lab while 56% said this is likely or definitely untrue. Fifty percent of Republicans surveyed said they believe coronavirus was created in a lab compared with 37% of Democrats who said they believed that.
Ooh. Can we not do that? Like, let's just leave the unproven conspiracy crap to the Right.
Other findings included:
- 35% of Americans said they believe the coronavirus is probably or definitely being "exaggerated" for political purposes. Forty-four percent of Republicans said they believe this, 26% of Democrats said they do.
- 39% said it's definitely or probably true that people 30 years old or younger are less likely to get infected by the virus. This outlook is most prevalent among people 44 or younger. Although young people have a far greater ability to recover from the disease, they can get infected just the same.
- 36% said they believe the coronavirus is no more dangerous than the seasonal flu for people under 30 years old. This outlook is most prevalent among people 44 or younger
Why do people believe this shit? Well, it could be attributed, at least in part, to Facebook. Not only is it fertile ground for conspiracy theories and groups promoting them in general, but up until recently, options for targeted advertising included interests in "pseudoscience" and "conspiracy theory."
The company eliminated the pseudoscience category from its "detailed targeting" list on Wednesday, the spokeswoman said by phone, after tech news site The Markup showed that it could advertise a post targeting people interested in pseudoscience.
The Markup demonstrated that Facebook was allowing such ads after saying it would police COVID-19 misinformation on its platform. More than 78 million Facebook users were interested in "pseudoscience," it said, citing Facebook's ad portal.
Misinformation about the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, from bogus cures to wide-ranging conspiracy theories, has also spread on rival social media platforms such Twitter Inc and YouTube, the video service of Alphabet Inc's Google.
So, just say, hypothetically, that you ran an Infowars-like site or you were selling some Miracle Mineral Solution or Silver Solution as a cure for COVID-19, you could find the people most likely to believe your bullshit and buy your snake oil and advertise directly to them. And then they tell two friends and they tell two friends, and so on, until the misinformation becomes so widespread people take it as just regular information. It's easy (for me, at least) to forget that most people don't spend 12 hours a day glued to their laptops and that sometimes they get their information not from the news but from other people they happen to know. A belief like "people under 30 are less likely to get infected with COVID-19" likely comes less from straight "misinformation" and more from "a game of telephone." People hear or read that younger people are less likely to die from it and interpret that as "less likely to get it, period."
While that's not great, it's worlds away from "There's actually a vaccine and a cure already but 'they' are keeping it from us for some nefarious purpose." If that were the case, it would be awfully strange of these "elites" to even bother creating a cure or a vaccine in the first place. Why would they spend all that time and money on creating a cure or vaccine just to hide it from people? What sense would that even make?
People are scared and they are bored, which makes this a particularly fertile season for pushing conspiracy theories and spreading misinformation. Hopefully, those of us who are also scared and bored but better informed will be able to help contain the spread of that crap as well as the virus.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse