An Assessment of the Rapid Decline of Trust in US Sources of Public Information about COVID-19

Carl A. Latkin, Lauren Dayton, Justin C. Strickland, Brian Colon, Rajiv Rimal, Basmattee Boodram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We conducted a longitidinal assessment of 806 respondents in March, 2020 in the US to examine the trustworthiness of sources of information about COVID-19. Respondents were recontacted after four months. Information sources included mainstream media, state health departments, the CDC, the White House, and a well-known university. We also examined how demographics, political partisanship, and skepticism about COVID-19 were associated with the perceived trustworthiness of information sources and decreased trustworthiness over time. At baseline, the majority of respondants reported high trust in COVID-19 information from state health departments (75.6%), the CDC (80.9%), and a university (Johns Hopkins, 81.1%). Mainstream media was trusted by less than half the respondents (41.2%), and the White House was the least trusted source (30.9%). At the 4-month follow-up, a significant decrease in trustworthiness in all five sources of COVID-19 information was observed. The most pronounced reductions were from the CDC and the White House. In multivariate analyses, factors associated with rating the CDC, state health department, and a university as trustworthy sources of COVID-19 information were political party affiliation, level of education, and skepticism about COVID-19. The most consistent predictor of decreased trust was political party affiliation, with Democrats as compared to Republicans less likely to report decreased trust across all sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)764-773
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of health communication
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Library and Information Sciences


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