In reporting about the coronavirus, Finns trust experts, authorities and the news media

In a survey recently carried out by the University of Helsinki, a total of 92% of respondents trusted scientists and medical professionals with regard to news about the coronavirus, while 90% trusted the Finnish public broadcasting company Yle.

Scientists and doctors as well as the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare were considered the most useful sources of information (slightly over 70% of respondents), with trust in them also high.

Trust in the news media was strong, with roughly 60% of respondents generally finding the news media reliable. Individual news media outlets garnered even better assessments: Yle was considered fairly or very reliable by 90%, the Helsingin Sanomat daily by 76% and the MTV Uutiset outlet by 74% of respondents.

“Trust in coronavirus-related news is higher than the trust in news media seen in previous surveys. However, this is not necessarily an indication of a general increase of trust in news,” says Docent Janne Matikainen from the University of Helsinki, who headed the survey.

News media also fared well in other survey areas. Approximately 80% of respondents felt that news media had explained how to act during the exceptional circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic and helped understand it. A little over half (53%) considered reporting well-informed, but, at the same time, almost half (43%) thought the news media had exaggerated the pandemic.

Social media not considered an important source of news

From among politicians, the government received high ratings, with roughly 70% considering it a fairly or very useful and reliable source of information. On the other hand, the corresponding figure for the opposition was only about 20%.

News media websites and mobile applications were the most important source of news (80% of respondents), but news media outlets and discussions on social media constituted an important news source only for approximately 20% of respondents.

“No more than 13% stated that conversations about the coronavirus on the internet and social media are fairly or very important to them,” Matikainen says.

Incorrect information had been encountered fairly rarely. According to the respondents, such information had been shared the most by people unfamiliar to them (35%) and the least by hospital districts (4%). Roughly one-fifth of respondents had encountered incorrect information on various social media services, with the highest ratio (37%) seen on discussion forums.

“What’s interesting to see is that trust in the news media and authorities is so strong. And the biggest surprise is that the role of the internet and social media is so minor. Compared to international surveys, Finns think that communications and reporting related to the coronavirus have gone well,” Matikainen notes.

1,354 respondents

The data was collected through an internet panel conducted by Taloustutkimus from 11 to 18 May 2020, with 1,354 people responding. The results have been weighted to represent the population of mainland Finland between the ages of 18 and 79 according to age, gender and place of residence. The margin of error varies between 0.8% and 2.9%, depending on the specific result.

The survey is part of the Emotions at Stake: Authority of the Media and Trust of the Audience (Tunteet pelissä: Median auktoriteetti ja yleisön luottamus) project, which examines Finns’ opinions about the power of and trust in traditional news media and social media, also comparing findings with two studies completed 10 years ago. The final project report will be published in August 2020. Funding for the project is provided by the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation.

Further information:
Janne Matikainen, docent, University of Helsinki, +358 50 317 5028, janne.matikainen@helsinki.fi

Markus Ojala, postdoctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, +358 50 302 8782, markus.ojala@helsinki.fi

 

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Read more about research and specialists related to the coronavirus at the University of Helsinki.

https://www.helsinki.fi/en/news/coronavirus-research-at-the-university-o...