Research indicates that anti-vaccine messaging persists in social media despite recent measles outbreaks

TORONTO, March 4, 2015 /CNW/ - New research suggests that the recent efforts of political leaders, celebrities, researchers and health officials to support vaccination in the wake of measles outbreaks across North America has had no effect in dampening the amount of  anti-vaccination messaging on social media platforms such as Twitter. 

A new study released by the Toronto media research company Cormex Research examined trends in pro- and anti-vaccination messaging among Canadians on Twitter. The results indicated that while pro-vaccination messaging continues to account for a significant majority – up to 75% during the recent peak period from late January to mid-February – anti-vaccination messages remained prevalent, dropping only slightly from 17% last summer to 14% in the recent period.

"I'm sure many were hoping that with all the attention to the merits of vaccination generated by everyone from Health Canada to Jimmy Kimmel, there would be fewer people on Twitter opposing vaccination," said Dr. Andrew Laing, president of Cormex Research, "but our results wouldn't support it." 

The study was designed to test for a media effect known as the "spiral of silence." A spiral of silence effect occurs when people grow silent as they become increasingly aware that their views on a topic are in the minority. It was assumed that as reaction against so-called "anti-vaxxers" rose significantly in late January and early February following reports of measles outbreaks across North America, anti-vaccination positions on Twitter and other platforms would drop, or at least fall proportionately to the amount of pro-vaccination positions. The three percentage point drop that was observed was not significant enough to state that a spiral of silence effect had occurred.

The findings were part of a recently released study from the Cormex MediaLAB. The report is based on a random sampling of 1000 posts from Canadian-identified Twitter users taken from two periods:  a thirteen-week period between May 4 and August 3, 2014, when discussion about vaccination was low, and a recent four-week period between January 21 and February 19, 2015, when discussion on Twitter was ten times higher than during the low period. Results are considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points nineteen times out of twenty.

The full report can be found at http://www.cormex.com/medialab/Reports/Medialab_Mar2015.pdf.

Cormex Research is Canada's leading media content measurement and analysis firm, serving the country's top organizations since 1989 in analyzing mainstream and social media content from Canada and around the world. Cormex MediaLAB is a non-partisan research project project devoted to examining media practices through the use of quantitative research methods.    

SOURCE Cormex Research

For further information: Andrew Laing, President, Cormex Research at (416) 504-8236, x2001, or by email at info@cormex.com

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