Why People Became Hostile during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Exploring the Role of Social Media Use, Blame Attribution, and Collective Efficacy

Seo Yoon Lee, Se Jung Kim, Heejae Lee, T. Makana Chock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

After the breakout of COVID-19, people debated whether the Trump administration or foreign countries (e.g., China and some European countries) were responsible for the global pandemic. The aim of the current study was to examine, based on attribution theory, why people blamed different actors and showed hostility toward them during the pandemic. Scholars have found that information obtained during a crisis could lead people to blame specific targets and that this blame attribution could influence people to show hostility toward those targets. We explored these relationships and tested the moderating roles of political orientation and collective efficacy. Using online survey data, we found that the more people use social media to obtain information, the more they blamed the federal government. Moreover, blaming the federal government positively related to hostility toward the federal government, and we found a stronger association between blame attribution and hostility toward the federal government among individuals with low collective efficacy. However, we found no significant relationship between social media use and hostility toward foreign countries nor any moderating role of political orientation. We found that the positive association between blaming foreign countries and hostility toward them was stronger among individuals with high collective efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMass Communication and Society
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication

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