Matthew Baum

Matthew Baum
Harvard University | Harvard · Harvard Kennedy School of Government

About

187
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Introduction
I am the Marvin Kalb Professor of Global Communications and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and Department of Government. My research focuses on the domestic politics of international conflict and cooperation in general and American foreign policy in particular, as well as on the role of the mass media and public opinion in contemporary American politics. My additional research interests include the interaction of media and electoral institutions, fake news and misinformation, and the relationship between partisan media and polarization.

Publications

Publications (187)
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The Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs did not increase democratic representation. https://theconversation.com/overturning-roe-is-not-making-laws-reflect-what-people-want-new-survey-highlights-flaws-in-supreme-courts-reasoning-in-returning-abortion-authority-to-states-187138
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In this paper, we argue that WhatsApp can play an important role in correcting misinformation. We show how specific WhatsApp affordances (flexibility in format and audience selection) and existing social capital (prevalence of strong ties; homophily in political groups) can be leveraged to maximize the re-sharing of debunking messages, such as thos...
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Importance: Both major depression and firearm ownership are associated with an increased risk for death by suicide in the United States, but the extent of overlap among these major risk factors is not well characterized. Objective: To assess the prevalence of current and planned firearm ownership among individuals with depression. Design, setti...
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In this paper, we argue that WhatsApp can play an important role in correcting misinformation. We show how specific WhatsApp affordances (flexibility in format and audience selection) and existing social capital (prevalence of strong ties; homophily in political groups) can be leveraged to maximize the re-sharing of debunking messages, such as thos...
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One of the core tasks of a well-functioning state is providing fair and adequate criminal justice. Recent events have raised concerns that the US exhibits a “culture of rape,” wherein victims are often disbelieved and blamed. Scholars have not yet examined how the public understands rape and how it should be punished, despite the important role tha...
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Misinformation remains an important public health concern, especially as it is widely seen as a factor affecting people’s behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. In past reports, we have discussed the prevalence and demographics of COVID-19 misinformation, its link to vaccination rates, and its dependence on social media news consumption.Here, we ex...
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It has been approximately 9 months since the FDA authorized youth ages 12 to 17 to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, and 3 months since authorization for kids ages 5 to 11. After each authorization, vaccination rates initially surged among those age groups. Now that more time has elapsed - along with the spike in cases due to the Omicro...
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Recent years have seen armed protests, threats, and violence against government officials following mask mandates, COVID-19 related closures, and the 2020 election (including, most notably, the deadly January 6, 2021 attack on the US capitol). These events have sparked concern about the state of American democracy and the safety of government offic...
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The availability of home antigen testing alongside continued challenges in pursuing PCR and antigen tests outside of the home means it is likely that some positive cases are not represented in official counts of cases or positivity rates. Community survey methods could prove helpful in evaluating the extent to which such cases may be missing from o...
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Importance: Misinformation about COVID-19 vaccination may contribute substantially to vaccine hesitancy and resistance. Objective: To determine if depressive symptoms are associated with greater likelihood of believing vaccine-related misinformation. Design, setting, and participants: This survey study analyzed responses from 2 waves of a 50-s...
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Late Friday, the CDC updated its guidance regarding mask types for Americans, saying that people now “can choose” to wear higher quality respirators such as N95 or KN95 masks, if they wish. The updated guidance comes on the heels of President Biden’s announcement on Thursday that the nation has more than tripled its stockpile of N95s to help ensure...
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How significant a problem is misinformation for the delivery of healthcare services? Misinformation, and any resulting misperceptions, certainly have the potential to negatively impact people’s attitudes and behaviors surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether or not someone internalizes misinformation depends on multiple factors, but one key consi...
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The COVID states project conducted a survey and issued a report in the immediate aftermath of the storming of the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. Here, we revisit some of the opinions regarding January 6th, a year later.
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In the U.S., children ages 5 and older are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received emergency authorization from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in early November 2021. The vaccine had previously been authorized for youth ages 12-17 in Spring 2021. As of December 16, the CDC reported tha...
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In a few short years, the scholarly approach known as Critical Race Theory (CRT) went from a relatively obscure academic framework to the new front in the American culture wars. CRT has made its way to the front pages of newspapers, cable news show’s primetime specials, Presidential executive orders, and a slate of laws and regulations dictating ho...
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Recognizing that the protection conferred by COVID-19 vaccines may wane over time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has encouraged adults in the United States to receive booster shots that can augment their immunity to the virus. While the Biden administration sought to encourage all adults to receive boosters, the CDC initia...
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The COVID-19 pandemic and the backlash against Critical Race Theory have led to increased attention to school board elections. To better understand who votes in these elections and who attends school board meetings, this report examines the demographic characteristics of individuals who say they attended a school board meeting in the past 6 months...
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In early November 2021, children ages 5-11 were authorized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, making an additional 28 million children eligible for the shot. Given this significant advancement in COVID-19 vaccine availability - particularly in light of recent concerns over the Om...
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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s announcement last week that he would not seek re-election comes on the heels of a wave of retirements of moderate Republican politicians who have found themselves at odds with former President Donald Trump and his vision of the Republican Party. Governor Baker’s decision to not seek re-election is somewhat sur...
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Importance Some studies suggest that social media use is associated with risk for depression, particularly among children and young adults. Objective To characterize the association between self-reported use of individual social media platforms and worsening of depressive symptoms among adults. Design, Setting, and Participants This survey study...
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With the return of students to U.S. colleges and universities this September, more than 1,000 institutions of higher education have implemented COVID-19 vaccine mandates to keep COVID-19 cases low. The majority of students have complied with these mandates, and according to our recent survey data, nearly three-fourths of university students report...
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Importance Some studies suggest that social media use is associated with risk for depression, particularly among children and young adults. Objective To characterize the association between self-reported use of individual social media platforms, and worsening of depressive symptoms, among adults. Design We included data from 13 waves of a non-pro...
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In early October 2021, Pfizer and BioNTech asked the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize their COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11. The success of vaccinating children is, however, still contingent upon whether parents feel their children should get the COVID-19 vaccine.Before the pandemic, vaccine hesitancy am...
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In mid-August 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) issued a recommendation for both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans to begin wearing masks in public again, particularly in places experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19, driven by the Delta variant. Further compounding this concern is the lower propensity of unvaccinated in...
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The vaccination rates of healthcare workers are of particular importance because they are more likely to be conduits of exposure for vulnerable individuals. Here we revisit our earlier report on the vaccination rates of healthcare workers between June and September. From June 2021 to September 2021, vaccination rates and attitudes1 among healthcare...
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COVID-19 continues to surge in the United States and elsewhere, propelled by the highly contagious Delta variant. As of this writing (on September 29, 2021), about three quarters (76%) of the eligible U.S. population (age 12 and up) have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This is likely not enough to achieve herd immunity in the Unit...
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The COVID States Project survey regularly asks people in all 50 states about their approval of their governors and the President. Since our last report on executive approval, which examined trends through March 2021, the pandemic has notably evolved, with huge surges of cases and deaths associated with the Delta variant throughout the summer and ea...
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Introduction The major stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic provide an opportunity to understand the extent to which protective factors against depression may exhibit gender-specificity. Method This study examined responses from multiple waves of a 50 states non-probability internet survey conducted between May 2020 and January 2021. Pa...
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This report examines the decision to not get vaccinated (yet) from the perspective of the unvaccinated. That is, obviously, no one is avoiding vaccination because they do not value their health or the health of others. So: what are the primary reasons for the choice to not get vaccinated (yet), from the perspective of those not getting vaccinated?...
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The vaccination status of healthcare workers is of particular importance, for two key reasons:First, healthcare workers have been a harbinger of trends among the broader population through the entire vaccination campaign, as they were among the first to gain access to vaccines. The early inequalities in terms of access among healthcare workers were...
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In an online forum designed to quell parents’ anxieties about the COVID-19 vaccine for their kids, one parent wrote: “I’m not an anti-vaxxer or an anti-masker. I’m just worried.” (New York Times, 2021). On May 12, 2021, the New York Times published an article titled “They’re Not Anti-Vaccine, but These Parents Are Hesitant About the COVID Shot” whi...
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In mid-July 2021, President Biden emphatically claimed that social media platforms were “killing people” by facilitating the spread of vaccine misinformation. Not long after, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell similarly declared that misinformation was to be blamed for the low vaccination rates of Americans.The public debate that followed bro...
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variant, the good news is that, as of this writing (on July 23, 2021), about 66.6% of the eligible U.S. population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The more worrisome news is that a persistent 20%-30% of the public, depending on the poll, say they are either uncertain or will not get the vaccine.In our most recent survey wave...
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Earlier this month, we witnessed a vigorous back and forth between the White House and Facebook regarding the role of the company in circulating health misinformation. On the White House side, the Surgeon General released an Advisory declaring misinformation a public health threat to the nation, highlighting, in part, the role of social media. This...
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Depression can affect individuals’ attitudes by enhancing cognitive biases and altering perceptions of risk. Some evidence suggests an association between depression and endorsing mass violence. This linkage, however, is undertheorized by social science, tentatively empirically supported, with little attention to conditions impacting the relationsh...
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With school just around the corner in many states, how do Americans feel about requiring COVID-19 vaccination for in-person school attendance? And how do parents feel about vaccinating their kids? Since our last two reports on parents’ vaccination attitudes in March and May, the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for children 12 and older, and over t...
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Overall, the levels of social isolation have increased since the first waves of the pandemic, in spring, 2020, but have been showing signs of improvement since January 2021. After its initial increase, the percentage of socially isolated respondents declined most among those with high income and education. We also observed a relatively faster drop...
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The original version of this article mistakenly listed “the Foundations of Human Behavior Initiative at Harvard University” in Acknowledgements section. The proper acknowledgement is “the Pershing Square Fund for Research on the Foundations of Human Behavior at Harvard University”.
Article
Concerns about misperceptions among the public are rampant. Yet, little work explores the correlates of misperceptions in varying contexts – that is, how do factors such as group affiliations, media exposure, and lived experiences correlate with the number of misperceptions people hold? We address these questions by investigating misperceptions abo...
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With rapid progress toward vaccination in the United States along with falling COVID-19 case rates and a reopening economy, federal and state leaders speak optimistically about a return to normalcy this summer. But as cases diminish, have the unprecedented rates of depression and anxiety documented in our reports, and in other US surveys, also begu...
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As more Americans are being vaccinated, politicians, institutional leaders, and individual members of the public are debating in what contexts vaccine requirements are appropriate and who should be allowed to set the rules. For example, an increasing number of colleges and universities are announcing that they will require that students be vaccinat...
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“Vaccine certification” requirements were first introduced in the United States in response to smallpox in the 1800s. Today, physicians routinely provide certification that students have received an array of vaccinations that are required in order to attend school or summer camp, or to participate in sports or other group activities. A similar conc...
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Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, California has had more than 3.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 62,000 total deaths. According to Statista, California has been the state with the most COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. and has maintained that status for the majority of the pandemic. Recently, however, the ca...
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We evaluate whether the temporary pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on April 13 negatively affected vaccine attitudes. We find no evidence that the pause affected vaccine intentions. However, the rapid rate of vaccinations has largely exhausted the number of vaccine enthusiastic people, likely driving the current slow down in vaccination rates...
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With Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine soon to be available to 12-15-year-olds, how prepared are Americans to vaccinate their children? And do they support requiring that children be vaccinated before returning to in-person school? In this report, we examine three aspects of childhood vaccinations: parents’ resistance to vaccinating their children, support...
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On April 13, the FDA and CDC recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine. This followed reports of a rare type of blood clot emerging in a small number of individuals following the use of the vaccine. This action raised serious concerns and criticisms of these agencies that the pause might lead to an increase in...
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Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic rates of depressive symptoms are markedly elevated, particularly among survivors of infection. Understanding whether such symptoms are distinct among those with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, or simply a nonspecific reflection of elevated stress, could help target interventions. Method: We analyzed data from mu...
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This report is an update of our February report on attitudes and vaccination rates of healthcare workers. The essential patterns are similar, with the obvious exception being the increased rates of vaccination. We focus on vaccination, vaccine resistance, vaccine hesitancy, vaccine access, and vaccine refusal.
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Are parents more skeptical of coronavirus vaccines than other adults? A 2017 study by the Pew Research Center found that parents—especially those with younger children—are generally more vaccine hesitant than non-parents. Moreover, in recent years, increasing numbers of parents have either delayed or forgone entirely having their children vaccinate...
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As part of the COVID states project, we have been asking people in all 50 states about their approval of their governors and the President. Since our last report on executive approval, which examined trends through October, 2020, there have been radical shifts in the pandemic, with huge surges of cases and deaths, followed by a dramatic drop since...
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In this report, we analyze the trajectory of the pandemic in Massachusetts, from late April 2020 to March 1, 2021, examining public health behaviors and approval of Governor Charlie Baker’s handling of the crisis. For information on other states, please consult our interactive dashboard.
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Who has been most likely to be vaccinated? And who is most likely to be vaccine resistant? Among the early, eligible individuals, who has received the vaccine, and who has refused to be vaccinated? In this report we address these questions by examining the relationship between various sociodemographic categories and vaccination rates, vaccination r...
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New York is similar to other states in the northeast, in that it had its initial spike in COVID-19 cases during March and April, with a second wave that peaked in December and January. In this report, we examine New Yorkers’ health-related behaviors that facilitate or inhibit the spread of the disease, focusing specifically on social distancing and...
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New Jersey is similar to other states in the northeast, in that it had its initial spike in COVID-19 cases during March and April 2020, with a second wave that peaked in December 2020 and January 2021. This report presents an overview of key trends in the behavior of New Jersey residents since the first months of the pandemic, with respect to follo...
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Importance: COVID-19 symptoms are increasingly recognized to persist among a subset of individual following acute infection, but features associated with this persistence are not well-understood. Objective: We aimed to identify individual features that predicted persistence of symptoms over at least 2 months at the time of survey completion. Design...
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In this report, we examine the demographic correlates of vaccination, vaccine hesitancy, and vaccine resistance among the subset of 1,797 respondents in the COVID states survey who indicated that they are healthcare workers. We find that education, income, gender, race/ethnicity, and partisanship are strong predictors of vaccination rates recorded...
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The 2020 election produced two distinct perceived realities for the United States public. The first perceived reality holds that the election was conducted fairly, and that Joe Biden won. Individuals who hold this vision of reality feel their votes were counted accurately, and that the events of January 6th were repugnant. This is also the version...
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A multi-wave 50-state COVID-19 survey: https://covidstates.org/From: The COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States. A joint project of: Northeastern University, Harvard University, Rutgers University, and Northwestern University.
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To date, Congress has passed four COVID-19 relief packages totaling about $3 trillion, the most recent of which, the CARES Act, was passed on March 27th, 2020. The House of Representatives subsequently passed the $3 trillion Heroes Act on May 15th. The Senate has yet to take up the legislation or pass a fifth bill of its own. Throughout the summer,...
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Social media acts as a conduit for fake news websites, where we define fake news as information that mirrors legitimate news in form, but “lacks the news media’s editorial norms and processes for ensuring the accuracy and credibility of information.”4 During the 2016 election, for example, many researchers and journalists alike failed to track the...
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This report summarizes the trajectory of individual behaviors in Massachusetts related to the spread of COVID-19 - that is, the way individual behavior has changed over the past 7 months in the Commonwealth. These summaries are based on a large-scale survey that our team has regularly conducted in all 50 states since April of this year.
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Controversy has erupted over the possible release of a COVID-19 vaccine prior to the November 3rd election, with President Trump hinting that a vaccine may be ready by October, while the CDC has instructed states to be prepared to distribute a vaccine at that time. These assertions have prompted a backlash from some public health experts, counterin...
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In the post-election (November) wave of our survey, we asked respondents whether and to what extent they approved or disapproved of seven such measures intended to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including: (1) asking people to stay at home and avoid gathering in large groups (which, for economy of words, we will frequently refer to as “stay-at-ho...
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The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic fallout is the defining issue of the 2020 presidential election. Over 226,000 people in the United States have died from the disease as of this writing, and the daily lives of essentially everyone in the country have been disrupted in some way. It is unsurprising, then, that citizens consistently ra...
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As of this writing, Congress appears to be in the late stages of negotiating the parameters of a possible COVID relief package, based on the roughly $908 billion proposal recently introduced by a bipartisan and bicameral group of Senators and Representatives. However, it remains uncertain whether Congress will pass, and the president will sign into...
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Since April 2020, the COVID States Project has been surveying respondents regarding social distancing behaviors and adherence to health recommendations more generally. Our November report, looking at the data from April to November, with a partial exception of mask wearing, found a steady relaxation of these behaviors over time. In this report, we...
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In report 25, published in November, we evaluated public support for taking more aggressive measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. The key finding is that there is broad support for taking more steps to limit the spread of the disease. In a just completed survey, we repeated these questions, finding that opinions are virtually unchanged since No...
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In our December 2020 survey wave, we included a series of questions aimed at assessing the state of opinion regarding these topics. Some key findings are:● Two thirds of respondents are at least somewhat concerned about the quality of the education they (if they are students) or their children (if they are parents) are receiving during the pandemic...
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Scholars and public health officials have expressed growing alarm over what some have termed a “misinfodemic” − a parallel epidemic of misinformation − around COVID-19. Indeed, conspiracy theories, from the Plandemic pseudo-documentary to QAnon, fuel rising skepticism about scientific facts across many areas of public life, and in recent months esp...
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Which issues are, or will be, on voters’ minds as they enter the voting booth on or before November 3rd? Candidates Trump and Biden have stressed quite distinct issues throughout the campaign. The Democrat, Joe Biden, has sought to maintain a focus on the President’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that Donald Trump is undermining Ameri...
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An increasing number of school districts across the United States have announced that they will provide entirely remote learning when school resumes this fall. Others, like New York City, continue to consider alternatives, including hybrid models in which students attend school part-time. While many other countries have succeeded in reopening schoo...
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The current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is dire, with circumstances in the Upper Midwest particularly grim. In contrast, multiple countries around the world have shown that temporary changes in human behavior and consistent precautions, such as effective testing, contact tracing, and isolation, can slow transmission of COVID...
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Alongside the direct health impact of COVID-19 itself, there has been increasing recognition of the consequences of the pandemic for mental health. Initial attention focused on the front line health workers impacted by the first surge, but Americans have felt the impact of the pandemic and the strategies required to contain it far more broadly.Prio...
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The COVID-19 pandemic has led many election administrators, as well as voters, to reconsider the manner in which votes will be cast during the 2020 general election. With many voters wary of waiting in line in person beside strangers on Election Day, registrars around the country are preparing for a far higher share of ballots to be cast by mail th...