A newly released survey finds Michiganders are getting most of their COVID-19 information from Dr. Anthony Fauci, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and the CDC. But trust levels in those sources aren’t that high, with about half of respondents saying they trust Fauci and the CDC “a great deal or quite a bit,” and only about 42% saying the same for Whitmer. (Trust in President Donald Trump, traditional news media, and social media were even lower.)
“There’s still a big gap between numbers that would say they overwhelmingly trust those individuals to give them information, and what we’re actually seeing,” says Marianne Udow-Phillips, executive director of the Center for Health and Research Transformation, which conducted the survey in May with researchers at the University of Michigan. “So I think the experience we're seeing in the field, where people aren't always wearing masks, or where you see gatherings, is actually reflected in this data. And although we don't know this for sure from the survey, I do believe a lot of it has to do with the conflicting information people are getting.”
Healthcare providers were deemed the most trustworthy sources of COVID-19 information (with an almost 60% of respondents deeming them highly trustworthy) but only 38% said they’re actually getting their information from them. Udow-Phillips says that’s an opportunity for public health officials to use providers as messengers.
“They could mobilize our health care providers to be giving more direct messages to their patients,” she says. “I think that there's a good reason why health care providers are more trusted. It's because they have a personal relationship with their patients. And yet they're not doing the outreach in terms of helping patients follow public health guidance. And so I think this survey really speaks to engaging our frontline health care providers, primary care physicians in particular, to be giving the public health messages.”
While more than half of respondents said they used social media to get their COVID information, only about 10% said it was highly trustworthy. Meanwhile, 46% said they were getting a lot of information from President Trump, but only 27% said they trusted that info. Asked whether some information sources have an agenda, 46% said the state government does, while 61% said the same of the federal government.
“I think the two taken together, what you see is a lot of mistrust, particularly in a part of our federal politicians,” Udow-Phillips says.
Researchers also asked residents about contact tracing, and more than two thirds said they’d be willing to participate.