NEW STUDY: Facebook is primary driver of COVID-19 misinformation in the Latinx community, fueling vaccine hesitancy - Voto Latino Foundation

NEW STUDY: Facebook is primary driver of COVID-19 misinformation in the Latinx community, fueling vaccine hesitancy

Washington, DC – According to a new study, among Latinx respondents who have not yet been vaccinated, 51% say they will likely not get vaccinated against COVID-19 at this time — this number rises to 67% within Spanish-speaking households. The two most commonly cited reasons against taking the vaccine are around safety and effectiveness, which are especially prevalent in Spanish-speaking households. The study goes on to find that misinformation around COVID-19 and the vaccines play a critical role in fueling vaccine hesitancy among Latinos. Facebook (49%) and local news (39%) are the top reported platforms spreading inaccurate and harmful information around the vaccines.

The study, which was conducted by Change Research on behalf of the Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab, a joint project of Voto Latino, the nation’s largest Latinx voter registration and engagement organization, and Media Matters for America, a nonprofit disinformation watchdog, found that almost 4 in 10 Latinx respondents report having seen material or information that makes them think the COVID-19 vaccines are not safe or effective. In addition 6 in 10 Latinos know someone in their household or community who is unwilling to take the vaccine because they believe it will be harmful to them.

Specifically, the survey found that:

-Among Latinos who have not been vaccinated, the majority say they do not plan on getting a COVID-19 vaccine or are hesitant to get one because they believe it is not safe (51%) – this number rises to 67% among Spanish-dominant speakers.

-Latina women (48%) are less hesitant to take the vaccine than Latino men (54%); however more than one-third (34%) of women are more likely to only accept a
specific vaccine versus only 25% of men.

-Of those respondents who are unsure about getting vaccinated, Latinos under the age of 50 (78%) and that speak Spanish as their primary language at home (49%) are among the most hesitant to get the vaccine.

-Nearly 40% of Latinx respondents say they have seen material or information that makes them think the COVID-19 vaccine is not safe or effective. Another 20% say they have directly received wrong or harmful information about the vaccine, primarily on Facebook (53%) and messaging apps (43%), such as SMS, WhatsApp, WeChat, Telegram, etc.

-The top three sources that Latinos turn to for information about COVID-19 and the available vaccines are the Centers for Disease Control (56%), the news (53%), and their primary healthcare provider (46%); Spanish-dominant speakers are more likely to rely on their family for information (29%), compared to English speakers (19%).

-72% of Latinx respondents who are unsure about getting the COVID-19 vaccine say they know someone in their household or community who is unwilling to take the vaccine because they believe it will be harmful to them.

-Overall, 78% of Latinx respondents believe COVID-19 misinformation is a very serious or somewhat serious problem, particularly when thinking about their community, family, and friends.


“These numbers should be alarming to anyone who wants to see us get through this pandemic,” says María Teresa Kumar, co-founding president and CEO of Voto Latino. “Voto Latino is launching a massive, coordinated response against the spread of disinformation and we invite those in government, business leadership, social media corner offices, and at home to join us in the fight against these dangerous lies.”

“We’re meeting a strong threat with a stronger response – the truth,” added Tom Perez, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and co-chair of the Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab. “This powerful investment in Latino community communications infrastructure will help protect our community and the country, helping ensure that our families and friends will not be victimized by unchecked misinformation and lies again.”

“Misinformation and disinformation have harmful consequences,” said Angelo Carusone, president & CEO of Media Matters. “The poll’s findings further illustrate both how central Facebook is to the larger disinformation problem and how their efforts to address false information – especially non-English disinformation – are grossly inadequate. This is an alarm bell warning us about the increasing threat of disinformation targeting the Latinx community.”

The survey is the beginning of a large-scale bilingual message testing campaign through the Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab. Voto Latino and Media Matters will be developing and testing public health messages and materials in both English and Spanish aimed to combat COVID misinformation and to boost vaccination among the Latinx community based on the findings. The campaign will also include digital video ads that feature calls-to-action from authoritative and influential figures, such as academics, scientists, and educators.

The campaign will be the first and largest campaign of its kind, with a goal of targeting communications to the 12-15 million Latinos in the U.S. who have not yet been vaccinated.

About the Survey
Change Research conducted an online survey of 1,896 voters nationwide, including 947 Latinx voters about their attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccines and experiences with COVID-19 disinformation. The survey was conducted in both English and Spanish between March 19-25, 2021. The margin of error for the survey is 2.77%.

About the Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab
The Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab is the largest investment in combatting disinformation in Latinx communities to date. It will combine Media Matters’ media intelligence and disinformation expertise with Voto Latino’s deep knowledge of Latinx communities and digital-first savviness to inoculate impacted audiences across all mediums against targeted misinformation. As part of this effort, Media Matters will expand its monitoring of Spanish-language media and online communities, which a dedicated team will analyze to produce research that will catalyze strategic communications actions for Voto Latino. Voto Latino will invest heavily in data and infrastructure needed to effectively identify and communicate with at-risk Latinx voters.

About Voto Latino
Voto Latino is a grassroots political organization focused on educating and empowering a new generation of Latinx voters, as well as creating a more robust and inclusive democracy. Through innovative digital campaigns, culturally relevant programs and authentic voices, we shepherd the Latinx community towards the full realization of its political power.

About Media Matters
Media Matters for America is a nonprofit media watchdog dedicated to monitoring and exposing conservative misinformation. Through real-time monitoring, comprehensive research and analysis, and rapid response work, Media Matters combats lies, propaganda, and extremism to ensure that all Americans have access to truthful information.