COVID-19 and Conspiracy Theories in the UK Black Community | A Paper by Prof. Tushna Vandrevala

Covid-19 and Conspiracy Theories In The UK Black Community

“Conspiratorial beliefs related to COVID-19, have been found to be more prevalent in ethnic and migrant communities (EMGs) and are associated with significant COVID-19 health consequences through lower levels of engagement with protective behaviours; including mask wearing, testing, and vaccine intention” (Vandrevala et al., 2022, p.4)

This study analyses conspiratorial beliefs surrounding COVID-19 within Black African and Caribbean communities in the UK, to understand how and why conspiracy theories have spread.

Findings

The paper finds two main contributing reasons to this spread of conspiracy theory:

  • long-standing perception of injustice and mistrust
  • a lack of identity-aligned messaging

The importance of these findings is in contribution to understanding of the spread of conspiracies, and ensuring all groups in society are protected. To do so, mistrust must be addressed, and messages must be more identity-aligned.

Findings (page 9)
The paper finds two main contributing reasons to this spread of conspiracy theory:
long-standing perception of injustice and mistrust
a lack of identity-aligned messaging
The importance of these findings is in contribution to understanding the spread of conspiracies, and ensuring all groups in society are protected. To do so, mistrust must be addressed, and messages must be more identity-aligned.

Conclusion (page 18)
The current study makes an important contribution to our understanding of how people make sense of the COVID-19 pandemic and why for certain groups in society their sensemaking is more likely to draw on conspiracy theory beliefs. Our findings suggest conspiracy theory beliefs prevented public health communication to hook into and anchor within individual, and group-based black identities.

Given that conspiracy beliefs were not isolated or particular to a situation or a person, but widespread; stronger, groups-based interventions and strategies are needed to combat against communities being alienated from health messaging. In the past research, conspiracy theories were person and/or situation focused, but our study has highlighted that the global pandemic led to the rise of group-based conspiracy beliefs and provides useful explanations for why ethnic communities were so resistant to uptake of COVID testing and vaccinations.

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