Is Covid-19 an “Ordinary Flu” That Benefits Politicians? Perception of Pandemic Disinformation in Latvia

This study examines society’s susceptibility to COVID-19-related disinformation in Latvia, linking it to self-evaluation of the perceived COVID-19 health risks. The main research questions are: “How do Latvians experience disinformation about COVID-19?”; “How does this experience relate to different degrees of perceived disease risks?”. A nationally representative survey was conducted in September 2020, reaching 1,013 of Latvia’s residents aged 18 to 75. More than half of the respondents (54%) have encountered misleading or false information; 30% thought that “the COVID-19-related chaos is beneficial to politicians”, while 17% believed that “COVID-19 is like flu”. Respondents with a higher level of education and more active media usage habits are more likely to recognise disinformation about COVID-19. Moreover, this skill is linked to a higher degree of perceived threat of the disease. Yet, those who rate their risk of disease as very high, alongside those who rate their risk of disease as low and unreal, are ‘infodemically’ vulnerable – more susceptible to disinformation, false news, and conspiracy theories. Recommendations to communicators about curbing the diffusion of disinformation and diminishing its impact are provided.

conspiracy theories, COVID-19, disinformation, infodemic, Latvia, perceived disease risk