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Transparency Is Necessary but Not Sufficient to Reduce Skepticism About a COVID-19 Vaccine

Talk by Michael Bang Petersen, Department of Political Science

Info about event


Tuesday 2 February 2021,  at 11:00 - 13:00


Zoom meeting ID 563 610 6271





Health  authorities  emphasize  the  importance  of  "radical  transparency"  in  communicating  about future  COVID-19  vaccines  to  counter  conspiracy-based  skepticism.  While  this  resonates with research that highlights uncertainty as a major psychological predictor of conspiracy-related beliefs, no systematic evidence exists regarding theeffectiveness of transparency as communication strategy. This study tests the effects of transparent communication about a COVID-19 vaccine using a pre-registered experiment fielded to large, representative samples of Americans and Danes (N > 6,800). The evidence confirms that positive but vague vaccine communication does not increase vaccine support but rather infuses attitudes with conspiracy-related beliefs. Against the hopes of authorities, however, there is little evidence that transparency alone can reduce vaccine skepticism, unless this transparency discloses a highly safe and effective vaccine. Additional analyses suggest that this reflects that vaccine skepticism is not grounded in psychological uncertainty but in deep distrust of authorities, which impedes the effectiveness of their communication.



Michael Bang Petersen, Professor
Department of Political Science

HOPE - How Democracies Cope with Covid-19: A Data-Driven Approach