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Who Americans Trust for Health Information

September 11, 2023

The nation’s health misinformation challenge continues to grow, but there’s an opportunity to take action before false claims become entrenched, according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

Released last month, the KFF Health Misinformation Tracking Poll highlights the growing challenge of finding accurate health information in an increasingly online world. It also emphasizes the role of health care providers to help patients navigate the sea of complex health information they encounter.

The poll asks about common misconceptions and false claims about COVID-19, reproductive health, and gun violence.

“Most people aren’t true believers in the lies or the facts about health issues; they are in a muddled middle,” Drew Altman, KFF president and CEO, said in a statement. “The public’s uncertainty leaves them vulnerable to misinformation but is also the opportunity to combat it.”

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Vaccine misinformation:  Nearly 34 percent of adults say the false claim that COVID-19 vaccines caused thousands of sudden deaths in healthy people was "definitely" (10%) or "probably" (23%) true.
  • Reproductive health:  More than a third of adults say the false claim that using certain forms of birth control makes it harder for most women to get pregnant once they stop using them is “definitely” (5%) or “probably” true (29%).
  • Gun violence:  About 42 percent of respondents inaccurately believe that people with firearms at home are less likely to be killed with a gun, while 29 percent believe this is “probably” true. 
  • Trusted sources:  Respondents overwhelmingly said (93%) they trust their doctor's recommendations at least a fair amount. About two-thirds of the public have a fair amount of trust in the CDC (67%) and FDA (65%), with differences along political party lines.
  • Media input:  The public reported having "at least a little trust" in health information from local television news stations (80%), national network news (72%), and local newspapers (72%). About 24 percent of adults say they use social media at least weekly for health information or advice.

“Beliefs influenced by misinformation are not universally entrenched, and a significant portion of the public falls in the middle, susceptible to false claims, but not already bought in,” the survey notes. 

In addition to the survey, KFF plans to release a monitor to track health misinformation. The latest the KFF Health Misinformation Tracking Poll Pilot was conducted May 23―June 12, 2023, online and by telephone among a representative sample of 2,007 U.S. adults.

The poll is available to review online.