Then-President Donald Trump, flanked by members of his coronavirus task force, speaks to reporters at the White House on March 16, 2020.
Then-President Donald Trump, flanked by members of his coronavirus task force, speaks to reporters at the White House on March 16, 2020. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Americans who relied most on former President Donald Trump and the White House coronavirus task force for COVID-19 news in the early days of the pandemic are now among those least likely to have been vaccinated against the virus, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

In late April 2020, as part of the Center’s American News Pathways Project, respondents were asked to name the source they relied on most for pandemic news. At that point, it had been more than a month since the World Health Organization had declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic, businesses and schools in the United States were closing their doors, and the nation was approaching the 1 million mark in number of confirmed cases as the sweeping impact of the pandemic was becoming clearer.

Over a year later, at the end of August 2021, the Center asked U.S. adults about their vaccination status. Of the 10,348 respondents who took the August survey, 6,686 had also taken the April 2020 survey. Looking at the group who took both surveys reveals distinct differences in vaccination rates based on where people turned most for COVID-19 news.

How we did this

Pew Research Center surveyed U.S. adults to examine the relationship between Americans’ sources for COVID-19 news and having gotten a vaccine for COVID-19. The question about COVID-19 news sources was asked April 20-26, 2020, and the question about whether Americans received at least one dose of a vaccine for COVID-19 was asked Aug. 23-29, 2021. A total of 6,686 U.S. adults completed both surveys.

Everyone who completed the surveys is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The surveys were weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories using the procedure and benchmarks described in the methodology for the 2020 survey. Here is the methodology for the 2021 survey. Read more about the ATP’s methodology. Here are the 2021 questions used for this analysis, along with responses, and the 2020 questions used.

This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

A bar chart showing that Americans who relied mostly on Trump or on personal connections for COVID-19 news least likely to be vaccinated

Those who cited Trump and his task force and those who cited personal and community networks as their favored COVID-19 news sources are far less likely than those who relied on other source types to have received at least one shot of the vaccine. Roughly six-in-ten (59%) of those who relied most on Trump say they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 38% say they have not received a vaccine.

Those who said they rely most on personal and community networks such as family and friends, local newsletters or Listservs, or online forums for pandemic news have virtually the same vaccination rate as the Trump group: 58% say they have taken at least one shot and 38% have not had any vaccine doses.

The most highly vaccinated groups are comprised of adults who in April 2020 said they relied most on national news outlets and public health organizations and officials for COVID-19 news; 83% and 82%, respectively, say they have gotten at least one shot. And about three-quarters of those who relied most on international news outlets (78%), state and local elected officials (76%) and local news outlets (72%) also have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Which Americans relied most on Trump for pandemic news?

Those who relied most on Trump and his task force for COVID-19 news stood out in several ways demographically from those who relied most on other sources. About seven-in-ten (72%) are at least 50 years old, including nearly four-in-ten (39%) who are at least age 65. The next oldest group trailed the Trump group by a large margin, with 51% of those who relied on national news outlets being at least 50 years old.

A table showing that demographic differences emerge based on where people got their COVID-19 news

One interesting contrast is that, overall, those ages 65 and older are the most likely of any age group to have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.

Those who relied most on Trump are most likely to be White and least likely to be Black or Hispanic. Just 3% of this group are Black and 8% are Hispanic Americans, while 83% are White. No other group is more than 72% White.

One other distinction that may be predictable but is profound and starkly partisan is that 92% of Americans who relied most on Trump for COVID-19 news are Republicans or independents who lean toward the Republican Party. Conversely, only 7% are Democrats or Democratic leaners.

In every other COVID-19 news source category, Democrats comprised no less than 49% and Republicans comprised no more than 44%.

Mark Jurkowitz  is a senior writer at Pew Research Center and a former associate director of journalism research.
Amy Mitchell  is director of journalism research at Pew Research Center.