Why do viewers still see Sean Hannity
See Sean Hannity and die
The Fox News star host has been calling the coronavirus a hoax for weeks. This has led to the loss of human life, as a group of economists with reference to the University of Zurich has now empirically proven.
It is now known that the US government reacted relatively late to the challenges of the Covid 19 pandemic. One consequence of this is that the country has by far the largest number of cases of illness worldwide and is only showing tentative signs of a flattening of the infection curve.
As of April 21, 787,752 people were infected with Covid-19 and 42,539 died from it in the United States.
What role has the communication of information in the American media played in this development? A team of four economists led by Leonardo Bursztyn from the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago investigated this question.
The answer presented by the authors in their paper: It played a significant role.
The research object of the team, which also included David Yanagizawa-Drott from the University of Zurich, was the two most popular talk show hosts of the TV station Fox News: Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.
Fox News is generally aimed at a conservative right-of-center audience and for the most part follows a decidedly loyal course to US President Donald Trump.
Hannity and Carlson have also made a name for themselves in recent years with a conservative tendency and great loyalty to Trump - with one important exception: Carlson warned of the corona virus in his show "Tucker Carlson Tonight" from the end of January and pointed out the dangers of the epidemic - At that time, Covid-19 did not yet have the status of a pandemic.
Sean Hannity, on the other hand, described Covid-19 as a hoax throughout February - just like Trump - and only hit a warning tone on his daily show around mid-March.
The following two graphs from the study by Bursztyn et.al. show the difference between the two stars of Fox News in conveying information:
As the black curve shows, Carlson began talking about the coronavirus as early as the second half of January. In the case of Hannity (red curve), on the other hand, terms such as coronavirus, Covid-19 or Sars-CoV-2 were practically never mentioned in the program until mid-February.
Carlson used the terms in a serious context as early as January, while Hannity only spoke about the subject in mid-March with the same seriousness as Carlson:
This different treatment of the coronavirus had an impact on the behavior of Fox News viewers, as the four economists found in a survey of 1,045 Fox viewers over the age of 55: People who prefer to watch the Carlson program have their behavior adjusted more quickly, for example by washing their hands more often, practicing social distancing or canceling planned trips:
Ultimately, the economists compared these significant differences in the way information was conveyed - warning from Tucker Carlson, "Coronavirus is a hoax" by Sean Hannity - and the behavioral changes among viewers with the popularity of the two talk show hosts in the various counties of the United States.
Hannity (red) is more popular in the Northeast, parts of the Southeast and Florida, around the Great Lakes and the Northwest of the United States. Carlson is more popular in the country's western counties.
At the level of the individual counties, the four economists then found that in "Hannity Counties" the incidence rates in early March and the death rates in mid-March were statistically significantly higher than in "Carlson Counties". From the second half of March, when Hannity also warned of the dangers of the pandemic, the incidence and death rates gradually converged.
Of course: Correlation does not necessarily mean causality. Other factors such as population density may also have favored Carlson Counties. But with a series of robustness tests, the four economists come to the end: The way in which Sean Hannity played down the corona virus in front of an audience of millions for weeks cost lives.
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