Intergroup Contact, COVID-19 News Consumption, and the Moderating Role of Digital Media Trust on Prejudice toward Asians in the U.S.: A Cross-Sectional Study

Journal of Medical Internet Research. JMIR Theme Issue 2020: COVID-19 Special Issue. *co-lead authors

Abstract: Background: The perceived threat of a highly contagious virus may lead people to be distrustful of immigrants and outgroups. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the salient politicized discourses of blaming Chinese people for the virus have fueled over 2,000 reports of anti-Asian racial incidents and hate crimes in the U.S..
Objective: This study investigates relationships between news consumption, trust, intergroup contact, and prejudicial attitudes toward Asians and Asian Americans residing in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. We compare how traditional news, social media use, and biased news exposure cultivate racial attitudes, as well as the moderating role of media use and trust on prejudice against Asians.

Conclusions: Experiencing racial prejudice among the Asian population during a challenging pandemic can result in poor psychological outcomes and exacerbate health disparities. Our findings suggest that conservative ideology, personal COVID-19 infection history, frequency of intergroup contact, traditional news exposure, and trust in social media emerge as positive predictors of prejudice against Asians and Asians Americans, whereas people who get COVID-19 news from left-leaning and balanced outlets show less prejudice. For those with higher trust in social media and digital news, frequent use of these two sources is associated with lower levels of prejudice. Our findings highlight the need to reshape traditional news discourses and utilize social media/mobile news apps to develop credible messages for combating racial prejudice against Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joe Phua 

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