The Effect of Fox News on Health Behavior During COVID-19

In the early weeks of the 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Fox News Channel advanced a skeptical narrative that downplayed the risks posed by the virus. We find that this narrative had significant consequences: in localities with higher Fox News viewership—exogenous due to random variation in channel positioning—people were less likely to adopt behaviors geared toward social distancing (e.g., staying at home) and consumed less goods in preparation (e.g., cleaning products, hand sanitizers, masks). Using original survey data, we find that the effect of Fox News came not merely from its long-standing distrustful stance toward science, but also due to program-specific content that minimized the COVID-19 threat.
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