Creating Hysteria: The Influence of News Media over Consumption Behavior during COVID-19 pandemic

Isabelle LaBianco, Dr. Joseph Morreale, Economics Department, Pace University, and One Pace Plaza, New York, NY 10038

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered consumers’ behaviors at grocery stores. News outlets’ circulation can attest to irrational consumption. With the surge of constant headlines from news outlets surrounding coronavirus, consumers cannot ignore the cascade of anxiety from the virus. This phenomenon emerging around COVID-19 has affected the United States’ economic infrastructure. Major heuristics of behavioral economics can explain these irrationalities. 

My research question is, did the news media significantly influence consumers’ purchasing habits at grocery stores during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. I have devised two hypotheses. The first hypothesis is the increase in the amount of news viewership contributed to an increase in grocery store consumption. The second hypothesis is that consumers who get their news from right-leaning sources are more likely to spend more than consumers who receive their information from left-leaning sources. To test my hypothesis, my methodology included analyzing the language regarding COVID-19 used in the three most viewed publications: Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. COVID-19-related stories published between March and July of 2020 contained words such as “coronavirus conspiracy,” “coronavirus vaccine,” and “coronavirus grocery stores.” 

Cognitive political biases are attributed to consumption patterns. Fox News portrayed the pandemic was less severe than CNN and MSNBC, which encouraged readers to social distance and wear masks. Republicans, Fox News’ intended audience, exhibited shopping behaviors considered “status-quo” to life before the pandemic. Democrats demonstrated stock-piling behaviors, going to the grocery stores when necessary. How media portrays the virus can be concerning to the way consumers perceive the information. Standardizing public health concerns across partisan media outlets is an effective solution to the problem at hand. Throughout my report, I discern that proper communication of health practices can unite the political divide about the virus’s risk. 

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Isabelle LaBianco

Institution: Pace University

Type: Poster

Subject: Economics

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 5
Date/Time: Tue 12:30pm-1:30pm
Session Number: 4129