The Influence of Social Media on Attitudes toward those with COVID-19

This survey of 400 Amazon Mechanical Turk participants examined the role that social media plays in influencing public opinion about people who contract COVID-19, commonly referred to simply as the coronavirus. Specifically, we examined responses to two statements: 1) People with the coronavirus should take care of themselves and not expect handouts and 2) People who develop the coronavirus are genetically inferior to other people. These dependent variables were examined in relation to social media usage (i.e. – Facebook Intensity, the number of unique groups represented in the participant’s social network, and so on). Results broadly indicated that frequent use of social media as a news source predicted increased beliefs that those with COVID-19 should not expect handouts and were genetically inferior.


Table 1 provides the sample descriptives. A total of 389 respondents completed all questions on the survey. Regarding the dependent variables of interest, the mean of 2.96 shows that people tend toward disagreement or uncertainty with the statement indicating people sick with the virus should not expect handouts. Similarly, people tend toward disagreement with the statement linking coronavirus with genetic inferiority (2.35).

In terms of our social media measures, respondents show a moderate degree of intensity of engagement with Facebook (4.12). The average number of unique groups on Facebook is just over 5. About 40% of the sample are likely to block or unfriend someone on social media because of what they post about politics or current events. Respondents report a moderately high frequency of receiving news from social media (3.28). Finally, about 35% of respondents report that they trust social media as a news source.

Regarding demographics and other controls, about 50% of the sample is male, 71% identify as white, and the mean level of education is roughly a 2-year degree (4.59). In terms of political views respondents tend toward moderate to conservative (3.94). Reported social class shows most respondents are working or middle class (2.95). The mean score on the anti-Chinese scale is 1.45 showing generally low levels of hostility toward Chinese people.

#influence of social media #digital culture