How influential is the U.S. mainstream media in defining public attitudes toward pandemic risk, decision-making under severe uncertainty and risks to their own health? It turns out - hugely influential.
A new paper from a group of U.S. economists, titled "The Persuasive Effect of Fox News: Non-Compliance with Social Distancing During the Covid-19 Pandemic" (authored by Andrey Simonov, Szymon Sacher, Jean-Pierre Dube, and Shirsho Biswas, May 17, 2020 https://bfi.uchicago.edu/wp-content/uploads/BFI_WP_202067.pdf) finds that:
- "The average partial effect of Fox News viewership in a zipcode implies that 1 percentage point increase in cable viewership reduces the propensity to stay at home by 8.9 percentage points compared to the pre-pandemic average."
- "A persuasion rate of Fox News on noncompliance with stay-at-home behavior during the crisis of about 33.5% − 50% across our various social distancing metrics."
- Simple regression (OLS) analysis o"generate a positive and statistically significant effect of Fox News viewership from early March onwards."
- More robust, IV estimates. "are considerably larger and indicate a take-off in the Fox News effect in early March and a stabilization in mid March, almost immediately after the declaration of a national emergency."
- "Since the supply-side measures, such as business closures, start to happen only two weeks later after the take-off of Fox News effects, the magnitudes of the viewership effects reflect the persuasive effect of Fox News on viewers and not a feedback effect from the equilibrium response of firms, at least early on."
- "Our findings for CNN are inconclusive, with imprecise point estimates centered near zero."