August 8, 2022

Views on harassing, threatening public health officials during COVID-19

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

This study led by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, finds that factors linked to support for harassing and threatening of public health officials during COVID-19 included political and sociodemographic explanations, but antagonism also increased among those supportive of science and better equipped to weather the pandemic’s adverse economic impacts.

In this survey of 1,086 adults, those who  believed that harassing or threatening public health officials because of business closures was justified rose from 20% to 25% between November 2020 and July 2021 and from 15% to 21% between July and August 2021.

In the beginning of the pandemic, antagonism toward public health officials was concentrated among those doubting science and groups most negatively affected, such as those with less income and education. However, over time negative views increased even among higher earners, political independents, more highly educated, and those most trusting of science.

The findings suggest that restoring trust in public health officials will require new strategies tailored to engage diverse viewpoints and build trust with all political and socioecodemographic groups, the researchers say.

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