A global study of digital crisis interaction among Gen Z and Millennials
Wunderman Thompson, University of Melbourne and Pollfish collaborated with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to conduct and launch Social Media & COVID-19: A Global Study of Digital Crisis Interaction among Gen Z and Millennials.
The international study surveyed 23,500 citizens in 24 countries (aged 18 to 40) between Oct 24 2020, and Jan 7 2021, and investigates where Gen Z and Millennials in pandemic hotspots are getting their COVID-19 information, who they trust as sources, what are their concerns as a result of the pandemic and their awareness of false news. It also looks at the size of their social media networks, how likely they are to share unverified information and how they build their own crisis narratives.
Insights from this study will be relevant to governments, health organizations, educators, media and businesses to help sharpen their health communications.
Based on initial findings, 6 key insights were developed and are shown below. And an in-depth report will be available at the end of April, 2021.
The 6 key insights
Key Insight 1: Mainstream media is still tops, although Gen Z and Millennials rely on multiple sources for their COVID-19 information. Friends and family ranked lower in terms of sources of information.
Top sources of information include:
- 43.6% national news media
- 36.2% search platforms
- 35.2% international news media
- 34.2% social media content from traditional media
Key Insight 2: Science content is seen as shareworthy
What Gen Z and Millennials are most likely to share on social media :
- 43.9% scientific content
- 36.7% information relevant to themselves
- 28.5% information that is concerning.
Key Insight 3: Awareness of false news is high, but so is apathy
- 59.1% of respondents were very aware that COVID-19 information on social media and messaging platforms could be false
- 35.% of respondents ignore content that they find out to be false
Key Insight 4: Gen Z and Millennials have multiple worries beyond getting sick
Top concerns included:
- 55.5% risk of friends and family contracting COVID-19
- 53.8% economy crashing
- 39.8% employment uncertainty
Crashing economy is the top concern of respondents in half of 24 countries surveyed.
Key Insight 5: Interest in vaccines is soaring
- 55.0% are interested in information regarding a COVID-19 vaccine
- 41.9% state that social media content by the WHO would be their first source of vaccine information
Key Insight 6: So much information, yet not the full picture
- 58.3% are overwhelmed by information
- 52.0% have stopped paying attention to COVID-19 news
- 59.3% feel the media is not telling them everything
- 57.1% feel that their government is not giving the full picture on the pandemic
The research was conducted and led by Wunderman Thompson’s APAC Chief Data Officer Thomas Brauch, APAC Intelligence Director Chen May Yee and the University of Melbourne’s Professor of Digital Communication and Globalization (Faculty of Arts), Ingrid Volkmer. The 24-country survey was conducted by Pollfish.
Commenting on the partnership, methodology and insights generated, Sarah Hess, Technical Officer, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization said, “Young people today are globally connected – sharing, co-creating and interacting with information on digital platforms daily. They have had to navigate the proliferation of misinformation that has accompanied the pandemic – misinformation that causes confusion, damages trust and threatens the public health response to COVID-19. This groundbreaking research provides insights on young people’s concerns during the pandemic and how they are interacting with their digital world to seek COVID-19 information. These outcomes are key to ensuring WHO’s communication strategies are relevant, responsive and reach young people, so everyone can have timely access to accurate information in order to make health protective decisions. WHO would like to acknowledge the fantastic collaboration with Wunderman Thompson, University of Melbourne and Pollfish in conducting this critical research as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Justin Peyton, Chief Strategy & Transformation Officer APAC, Wunderman Thompson said, “With COVID vaccine’s now being made available in different regions, it feels more important than ever that people get information that is both true and trusted. The research here has given us great insight into how trust can be impacted depending on who is delivering the message as well as other factors. I believe and I hope that the significance and scale of this research helps us to find the best ways to connect as the world continues to need trusted voices from partners like the WHO.”
Thomas Brauch, Chief Data Officer APAC, Wunderman Thompson said, “We continue to learn more about the prevalence and negative impact of misinformation on communities and citizens to effectively address global challenges like COVID. This research, covering 24 countries, adds to our understanding of how average people think about misinformation, ways they try to avoid or counter the effect, and provides guidance on addressing and overcoming a growing sense of scepticism people have in finding truthful and reliable sources.”
Ingrid Volkmer, Professor of Digital Communication and Globalization, University of Melbourne said, “As today’s Gen Z and Millenials are not only digital natives but also globalized natives as they naturally communicate with peers anywhere in the world through social media platforms, transnational research is needed to assess these spheres of borderless digital interaction. Our study produces not only insight into these digital practices in 24 countries on all continents but our research was conducted at the height of a health crisis in these regions. In this sense, our data set constitutes a unique snapshot of these crisis interactions of 18-24 year olds in countries across the world.”
John Papadakis, CEO, Pollfish said, “Pollfish is extremely proud to be part of this partnership that is researching such a key dimension of the pandemic that has gripped our world. Our organic research methodology and easy-to-use platform meant that the partnership was able to get global data at unparalleled speed and quality. Our partners were able to easily and quickly reach Gen Z and millennials around the world on Pollfish, even though these audiences can be challenging to connect with, because of our unique methodology and platform.”