Cross-Ideology News Consumption and Public Trust in COVID‑19 Vaccines: A Canada versus the U.S. Comparative Study

Li, Muyang | $17,803

Ontario York University 2021 SSHRC

The COVID‑19 pandemic has swept almost every country across the globe. Among all developed countries across the world, the U.S. has the most cases, and its death toll is approaching the total number of cases in Canada. To understand this shocking difference in controlling the pandemic between the two countries that share many similarities, this project aims to compare how news outlets in Canada and the U.S. communicate COVID‑19 vaccines and the risks of the Coronavirus to the public, and the extent to which cross-ideology news consumption shapes public trust in vaccines. Using a creative, mixed-methods approach, we propose a longitudinal, two-fold study:

First, a comparative study will be conducted to juxtapose the news agendas of the Canadian and U.S. media on the Coronavirus and COVID‑19 vaccines along the ideological spectrum conservative (Rebel News in Canada vs. Fox News in the U.S.), centrist (Globe and Mail in Canada vs. Wall Street Journal in the U.S.), and progressive (Toronto Star in Canada vs. Mother Jones in the U.S.) through computer-assisted content analysis.

Second, the comparative study will be followed by a three-wave longitudinal field experiment to test how Canadian and the U.S. audiences who consume information from a single ideological orientation (e.g., conservative) source differ from those who seek information across multiple orientations in their 1) risk perceptions about the Coronavirus, and 2) trust in COVID‑19 vaccines.

Besides publishing with top-tier academic journals, we also plan to share knowledge in broader scientific fields to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration and encourage research on this topic. We will work with the York University’s Resource Centre for Public Sociology, the Institute for Research on Digital Literacies, and the Communication and Marketing Office at the University at Albany to spread the word of our research findings via their websites, newsletters, and social media channels. In addition, the research findings will also be shared with a broader audience via news media outlets such as the Toronto Star, the CBC, and the Global News. We will also make out cutting-edge research accessible to public readers via Op-Ed articles on websites like Monkey Cage and Conversation.

This project’s findings will transform current knowledge and benefit society through:

1. Contributing to systematic knowledge building as to the role of news media during crises and the impact of cross-ideology news exposure on motivated-reasoning. While prior literature has shown how news media can shape public opinions during crises and the phenomenon of motivated reasoning, this project is the first to bridge the two bodies of scholarship via a creative comparative study amidst an unprecedented global pandemic.

2. Advancing the extant research on news media and news consumption using innovative methodologies, i.e., the combination of computer-assisted content analysis and longitudinal field experiment. The rare temporal dimension and the robust research design make this project especially valuable in revealing how Canada and the U.S. have addressed the pandemic differently as reflected in each country’s news media reports and how these news reports may shape public opinions in real settings.

3. Highlighting the barriers of news reporting and consuming in risk communication during disastrous crises. By doing so, this research project will transform our crisis-management efforts in developing future risk communication protocols for catastrophic situations like the COVID‑19 pandemic (e.g., establish a national emergency information system that provides diversified news information to audiences across the political spectrum).

With funding from the Government of Canada

Please complete this short survey to help us understand our impact. Thank you!

Give Feedback