Framing by Political Advocacy Groups May Jeopardize Public Understanding of Zika

by Michael Rozansky
Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, January 24, 2017

2 pp. 465 kB

The public’s ability to understand the dangers posed by Zika virus may be jeopardized by advocacy groups linking the virus with culturally charged issues such as illegal immigration and global warming, the authors of a new study warn. Zika virus has been, so far, a politically non-polarizing risk, according to researchers at Yale University and the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. But they found that viral internet images and stories associating Zika with hot-button issues, or “culturally antagonistic memes,” triggered polarizing reactions in people and “degraded their capacity to make sense of valid public health information.” The paper, “Culturally Antagonistic Memes and the Zika Virus: An Experimental Test,” was published online in December in the “Journal of Risk Research”.

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