Anti-intellectualism and Information Preferences during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic necessitates widespread voluntary and sustained public compliance with expert-guided public health directives, like social or physical distancing. Understanding which citizens seek out and engage with expert messages regarding COVID-19 is thus of central importance. Anti-intellectualism – the generalized distrust of experts and intellectuals – is likely to be a dominant factor. This note presents the results of two survey experiments from large nationally representative samples of Canadians (N~2,500) that illustrate citizen preference for 1) COVID-19 news, which they view as more important; and 2) COVID-19 information from experts, which they view as more credible. These information-seeking preferences and evaluations dissipate among those with high levels of anti-intellectual sentiment. Associations between anti-intellectualism and COVID-19 risk perceptions and social distancing compliance may, at least in part, be explained by divergence in information preferences.

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