The role of race, religion, and partisanship in misperceptions about COVID-19

James N. Druckman, Katherine Ognyanova, Matthew A. Baum, David Lazer, Roy H. Perlis, John Della Volpe, Mauricio Santillana, Hanyu Chwe, Alexi Quintana, Matthew Simonson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Concerns about misperceptions among the public are rampant. Yet, little work explores the correlates of misperceptions in varying contexts – that is, how do factors such as group affiliations, media exposure, and lived experiences correlate with the number of misperceptions people hold? We address these questions by investigating misperceptions about COVID-19, focusing on the role of racial/ethnic, religious, and partisan groups. Using a large survey, we find the number of correct beliefs held by individuals far dwarfs the number of misperceptions. When it comes to misperceptions, we find that minorities, those with high levels of religiosity, and those with strong partisan identities – across parties – hold a substantially greater number of misperceptions than those with contrasting group affiliations. Moreover, we show other variables (e.g., social media usage, number of COVID-19 cases in one’s county) do not have such strong relationships with misperceptions, and the group-level results do not reflect acquiescence to believing any information regardless of its truth value. Our results accentuate the importance of studying group-level misperceptions on other scientific and political issues and developing targeted interventions for these groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)638-657
Number of pages20
JournalGroup Processes and Intergroup Relations
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • COVID-19
  • misinformation
  • misperceptions
  • partisan social identity
  • race
  • religiosity


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