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Coronavirus conspiracy beliefs, mistrust, and compliance: taking measurement seriously

Garry, John and Ford, Rob and Johns, Rob (2020) 'Coronavirus conspiracy beliefs, mistrust, and compliance: taking measurement seriously.' Psychological Medicine. pp. 1-11. ISSN 0033-2917

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Background Freeman et al. (2020a, Psychological Medicine, 21, 1–13) argue that there is widespread support for coronavirus conspiracy theories in England. We hypothesise that their estimates of prevalence are inflated due to a flawed research design. When asking respondents to their survey to agree or disagree with pro-conspiracy statements, they used a biased set of response options: four agree options and only one disagree option (and no ‘don't know’ option). We also hypothesise that due to these flawed measures, the Freeman et al. approach under-estimates the strength of the correlation between conspiracy beliefs and compliance. Finally, we hypothesise that, due to reliance on bivariate correlations, Freeman et al. over-estimate the causal connection between conspiracy beliefs and compliance. Methods In a pre-registered study, we conduct an experiment embedded in a survey of a representative sample of 2057 adults in England (fieldwork: 16−19 July 2020). Results Measured using our advocated ‘best practice’ approach (balanced response options, with a don't know option), prevalence of support for coronavirus conspiracies is only around five-eighths (62.3%) of that indicated by the Freeman et al. approach. We report mixed results on our correlation and causation hypotheses. Conclusions To avoid over-estimating prevalence of support for coronavirus conspiracies, we advocate using a balanced rather than imbalanced set of response options, and including a don't know option.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Coronavirus conspiracies; public opinion; mistrust; compliance; survey design
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Government, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2021 14:34
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 14:22

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