Fox News’ early coverage of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 appears to have successfully convinced its viewers not to take seriously the risk posed to the public, according to two polls released Wednesday.
As I noted earlier:
Fox had a responsibility to provide its viewers with clear, accurate information about the ongoing public health crisis. Instead, for crucial weeks, as COVID-19 spread to become a global pandemic, the network’s propagandists downplayed the danger posed by the virus and portrayed it as a politicized hoax engineered by Democrats and the media in order to damage their beloved president. That initial coverage doubtlessly fed Trump’s own lack of concern over the threat, hampering public efforts to curtail the coronavirus. Only after Trump himself showed signs of taking the virus more seriously did many of the network’s hosts pivot and begin informing their viewers they were facing a “crisis.”
Polls show that the network’s coverage had its intended effect.
People who pay the most attention to Fox News are much less likely than others to say they are worried about coronavirus, according to a YouGov/The Economist poll conducted March 15-17:
The same poll shows Fox viewers are much less likely to disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic and much less likely to think the virus will cause a recession than people who get their news from more credible sources.
People who say Fox is their main source of election news are also much more likely to believe the news media has exaggerated the risks posed by coronavirus, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted March 10-16.
Pew similarly finds that 66% of Fox viewers say they are “very confident” in Trump’s handling of the outbreak, compared to 24% of all U.S. adults. Only 27% of Fox viewers call coronavirus “a major threat” to the health of the U.S. population as a whole, compared to 47% among all U.S. adults.
Fox should never, ever be allowed to live this down.