This study addresses how social media interaction affects misperceptions about COVID-19 via risk perceptions thereof and whether political orientation moderates the relationship. Using original two-wave panel survey data (N = 679), this study reveals that social media interaction increases misperception directly, as well as indirectly by reducing the extent of risk perception. The extent of risk perception is found to be a negative predictor of misperception. The deleterious role of social media interaction on misperception is pronounced across groups of conservatives and liberals, but in different ways. Although the effects of social media interaction on the level of misperception are observed in both conservatives and liberals, this relationship is particularly salient among conservatives. Furthermore, whereas conservatives consistently show low levels of risk perception toward COVID-19 regardless of how much they interact with others on social media, the more liberals interact on social media, the less likely they are to perceive COVID-19-related risks. The findings expand our understanding of the role of interaction behaviors on social media in forming risk perceptions and misperceptions on the politicized COVID-19 pandemic.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Ewha Womans University; University of Alabama.
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