Misperceptions can threaten scientific progress
Misperceptions of the level of concern of marginalized and disadvantaged communities regarding COVID-19, as well as other issues such as climate change, constitute a form of social misinformation that can undermine the cooperation and trust needed to solve collective problems. , according to new research led by Cornell.
“If we misperceive who is most concerned about urgent threats like COVID or climate change, we might not be involving the most affected communities,” said Jonathon Schuldt, associate professor in the Department of Communication at the College of Agriculture. and life sciences. .
“And science itself can suffer in a number of ways,” he said, “if the groups most affected and concerned about these issues are underrepresented in science and policy circles.”
Schuldt, acting executive director of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, is the corresponding author of “Inequality and Misperceptions of Group Concerns Threaten the Integrity and Societal Impact of Science,” published May 5 in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences.
Co-authors include Neil Lewis Jr. ’13, assistant professor of communication; Peter Enns, professor of government at the College of Arts and Sciences and the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy; Adam Pearson ’03, associate professor of psychological sciences at Pomona College; and Ashley Jardina, assistant professor of political science at Duke University.
The research, published in a special issue of the journal devoted to threats to science, builds on previous work published by Schuldt and Pearson that addresses misperceptions of climate change concerns among different groups.
“That’s an important piece of that,” Schuldt said, “because what we found in our previous work was this paradox: Minority and low-income respondents reported the highest levels of concern for climate change, but the American public misperceived them as among the least concerned.”
For this new work, Schuldt and his team analyzed more than one million responses from mid-February to the end of August 2020, from both national polls and their own original surveys on pandemic risk perceptions and social prejudices.
“We have made all of the data available to the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research,” said Enns, executive director of the Roper Center, “so that other researchers can continue to analyze and learn from this huge collection of survey data. related to COVID.”
Previous research has found that compared to white people in the United States, racial and ethnic minorities express more concern about COVID-19. This finding applies to Schuldt’s research: Differences in concern between groups were moderate in the first three months of the pandemic, but in August, Asian, Hispanic and Black respondents were about twice as likely to report being “very worried” (the highest level of concern) as white respondents or other groups.
Analysis of a separate dataset of more than 31,000 respondents surveyed by online polling firm Civiqs, from March 2020 to March 2021, revealed a similar racial and ethnic disparity.
But in measuring public perception of the groups’ levels of concern, the researchers found discrepancies from previous work. Between June and October 2020, they surveyed approximately 4,200 respondents from the AmeriSpeak Panel, maintained by NORC at the University of Chicago, and found that while the groups’ understatement of concern was evident, it was not as stronger than with climate change.
Notably, Hispanics/Latinos, Blacks, and Asians in the US were perceived to be significantly more concerned about the coronavirus than Whites in the US, contrary to what was seen in the environmental context. Some of the concern among Asian respondents, the paper suggests, may reflect the violence and prejudice they have experienced during the pandemic.
“I think this work teaches us to study perceptions of group concerns problem-by-problem,” Schuldt said. “It’s not the case that the public thinks minority and low-income communities care less about an issue. For COVID but not for climate change, the public recognizes that the most affected groups are more concerned, but in some cases they still underestimate these concerns.”
Lewis echoed Schuldt’s point about the importance of studying these nuances.
“The structure of our society shapes the experiences people have in their daily lives, and those experiences matter to our perceptions,” Lewis said. “Some of the experiences that disproportionately affect marginalized communities are more visible than others, so the public is more likely to recognize them.”
One difference between climate change and COVID is people’s acceptance of each issue: some groups refuse to believe man-made climate change is real, while millions of deaths around the world have driven all conspiracy theorists, except the most marginal, to conclude that the coronavirus exists.
“There seems to be more discussion and media coverage of the uneven impacts of COVID versus climate change,” Schuldt said. “And so we think that might be partly driven by media coverage; it’s just being talked about a lot more.”
Family values trump politics in Latino Americans’ climate beliefs
Jonathon P. Schuldt et al, Inequality and Misperceptions of Group Concerns Threaten the Integrity and Societal Impact of Science, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1177/00027162221086883
Quote: Misperceptions Can Threaten Scientific Advancement (2022, May 5) Retrieved May 5, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-05-misperceptions-threaten-scientific-advancement.html
This document is subject to copyright. Except for fair use for purposes of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for information only.