(Mis)informed During COVID-19: How Education Level and Information Sources Contribute to Knowledge Gaps

Tiziano Gerosa, Marco Gui, Eszter Hargittai, Minh Hao Nguyen


As COVID-19 swept across the globe, disrupting people’s lives through lockdowns and health concerns, information about how to stay safe and how to identify symptoms spread across media of all forms. Using survey data we collected in April 2020 on a national sample of Americans, we tested the knowledge gap hypothesis by examining how people’s education levels relate to their knowledge about COVID-19 as well as their susceptibility to fake news, and whether information sources moderate this relationship. Our findings suggest that a knowledge gap exists, with those with higher education levels displaying higher levels of knowledge. In contrast, education level did not play a role in believing false information. Moreover, higher news consumption through radio, print newspapers and magazines, and especially social media was associated with lower levels of knowledge and more fake news beliefs. However, news media consumption did not moderate the relationship between education and either knowledge or fake news beliefs, meaning that the media did not explain the education-based knowledge gap during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.


knowledge gap hypothesis, misinformation, fake news, traditional media, digital media, COVID-19

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