Information Seeking and Avoidance in the COVID-19 Pandemic as a Function of Political Ideology and National Context: A Survey Comparing the US and Germany

Helena Bilandzic, Jessica Gall Myrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a globally heightened need for scientific information. At the same time, the abundance of information led to tendencies of media fatigue and information avoidance. Both information seeking and avoidance are embedded in a specific national context, in which conditions of and measures against the pandemic may differ dramatically. In addition, the pandemic quickly became entangled with political ideology. Using the Risk Information Seeking and Processing Model (RISP) as a theoretical background, we investigate the role of national context and political ideology for information seeking and avoidance in a comparative survey in the U.S. and Germany during the early phase of the pandemic. Results show that the factors predicting information behavior are effective in both countries with only few differences: In both countries, perceived hazard characteristics, information norms and perceived information gathering capacity were related to higher information seeking and lower information avoidance. Ideology too is an important influence: Right-leaning ideology was associated with lower levels of information norms in both countries; but only in the US was right-leaning ideology connected to less perceived hazard characteristics and less negative affective responses. Results are discussed regarding their implications for the RISP model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHealth Communication
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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