A majority (57%) of U.S. adults are paying close attention to the ongoing pandemic, but many are struggling to find trustworthy information, and few individuals or institutions garner much trust.
Overall, 90% are either paying “extremely / very close” (57%) or “somewhat close” (33%) attention to COVID-19, but 30% of respondents said it has been difficult to obtain factual information. More than a third said the difficulty has increased since the beginning of the pandemic.
These are key findings from a new report published on Oct. 20 by AP-NORC, a joint initiative by the Associated Press and the NORC at the University of Chicago.
Only 43% of respondents said it was “very / somewhat easy” to find factual information, compared to 30% who said “somewhat / very difficult” and 27% “neither easy nor difficult.”
When asked if factual information has become easier or harder to find, 37% said harder, 36% easier and 27% no change.
Responses varied significantly when respondents were asked about specific areas of pandemic-related information.
A majority said it was easy to find factual information about wearing masks (70%), when / how to be tested (57%) and the safety of gathering in groups of 10 or more (55%). Less than half felt it was easy to obtain facts about eating in a restaurant (49%), safely reopening schools (39%) and the safety / effectiveness of medical treatments (35%).
Only one information source has garnered high trust / confidence among U.S. adults: doctors and healthcare providers, with 53% of respondents saying they trust them “a great deal / quite a bit.”
Confidence levels dropped sharply for all the other groups or individuals surveyed: federal health officials at the CDC or FDA (36% “a great deal / quite a bit”), state or local government (26%), news media (18%), family and friends (17%), Donald Trump (16%), online information (12%) and social media (6%).
Only 23% said they trust information provided by federal government “a great deal / quite a bit,” while 30% said “a moderate amount” and 47% said “only a little / not at all.”
Despite the higher level of trust in doctors and healthcare providers, a strong majority (79%) said they have obtained COVID-19 information from medical professionals “less often / never.”
By contrast, and despite the lower level of confidence, the news media is the most common source, with 46% saying they turn to news outlets for information “several times a day / once a day,” followed by social media (26%), state and local government (26%) and online sources (24%).
The margin of error is plus-or-minus 4.1%.
The full report is available here. The topline results are available here.