Messenger effects in COVID-19 communication: Does the level of government matter?

Nathen Favero, Sebastian Jilke, Julia A. Wolfson, Chengxin Xu, Matthew M. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Public efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus rely on motivating people to cooperate with the government. We test the effectiveness of different governmental messengers to encourage preventive health actions. We administered a survey experiment among a sample (n = 1,545) of respondents across the United States, presenting them with the same social media message, but experimentally varying the government sender (i.e., Federal, State, County, a combination of Federal + County, and a control condition) to test whether local relevance influences messaging efficacy. We find that in an information saturated environment the messenger does not matter. There is, however, variation in treatment response by partisanship, education, income, and the degree to which respondents are affected by the pandemic. While the main effect of the level of government on intended behavior is null, public health organizations are universally perceived as more trustworthy, relevant, and competent than anonymous messengers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100027
JournalHealth Policy OPEN
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Health messaging
  • Messenger effect
  • Survey experiment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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