March 24, 2020

Knowledge, perceptions of COVID-19 among the general public in US, UK

By: Judy Mathias

Editor's Note

The general public in the US and UK have important misconceptions about COVID-19, this study finds.

In this survey of 3,000 participants residing in the US and 3,000 residing in the UK, researchers identified several important misconceptions on how to prevent acquisition of COVID-19, including beliefs in falsehoods circulating on social media and the intent to discriminate against individuals of East Asian ethnicity for fear of acquiring COVID-19.

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For example:

  • 23.9% of US and 18.4% of UK participants believe that it is likely the virus is a bioweapon developed by a government or terrorist organization.
  • 25.6% of US and 29.6% of UK participants believe it would be prudent not to eat at Chinese restaurants for the next few weeks to reduce the risk of getting infected with the virus.
  • 29.7% of US and 40.8% of UK participants believe it is okay for an Uber driver to reject ride requests for people with East-Asian sounding names to reduce their risk of getting infected with the virus.
  • 29.0% of US and 24.4% of UK participants believe receiving a letter or package from China puts them at risk of getting infected with the virus.

Correcting these misconceptions should be targeted in information campaigns by government agencies, information from clinicians to patients, and media coverage, the researchers say.


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