Goal The aim of the research was to determine the influence of various media, social and institutional sources of information on attitudes about vaccination, i.e. on the belief in conspiracy theories in the field of vaccination. So far, some studies, especially in situations of vaccine confidence crises, showed that official sources of information (public media and the state institutions) and new sources of information, such as social media and the Internet, have different effects when it comes to vaccination attitudes. However, the topic is largely unexplored.
Methods The research was conducted on a convenience sample (N = 916) of the Croatian population, and the data were collected by means of an online survey. As a criterion variable in the study, the result on the scale of belief in conspiracy theories in the field of vaccination was used. As the predictor variables, we measured whether the research participants used certain media (specialized and non-specialized Internet portals, television) professional literature (books and articles), social groups (family) and institutions (medical staff, educational institutions and state institutions) as the sources of vaccination information, whereas age and gender of the study participants were used as control variables. In addition to descriptive indicators (frequencies, arithmetic means, and standard deviations), linear regression analysis was used to verify the research questions.
Results Descriptive results show that citizens use different types of information on vaccination, but that the most common sources are specialized Internet portals (66.01%), professional literature (53.55%) and medical staff – medical doctors, nurses and pharmacists (43.72%). The results showed that the use of non-specialized Internet portals (β = 0.27) and families (β = 0.18) as a source of information were statistically significantly (p <0.05) positively related, and that the use of medical staff (β = – 0.07), educational institutions (β = -0.11) and state institutions (β = -0.11) as sources of information negatively associated with belief in conspiracy theories. The use of television and professional books and articles did not prove to be significant predictors. Age was also not a significant predictor, while women showed a higher level of belief in conspiracy theories than men (β = 0.18).
Conclusion The results of the research show that the Internet portals are emerging as a new factor in creating negative attitudes about vaccination, which calls for further research. The traditional sources of information (television, professional books and articles), although often used, do not have a one-way impact. Social institutions as sources of information create positive attitudes about vaccination, while the positive and strong influence of the family as a source of information on belief in vaccination conspiracy theories implies the possibility that negative information about vaccination is often exchanged within the family.
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