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Governments' use of fear appeals and accessible language in COVID-19 outreach: comparing Florida and New York’s messages, March 2020-September 2020

Laffidy, Mary (2021) Governments' use of fear appeals and accessible language in COVID-19 outreach: comparing Florida and New York’s messages, March 2020-September 2020. Masters thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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The United States has struggled throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to effectively reduce the impacts of the virus. This is largely due to the drastically different responses from state-level leadership; two states that demonstrate such opposing reactions are New York and Florida. In March 2020, NY officials implemented complete shutdowns of public spaces and prohibited social gatherings, whereas FL officials introduced little to no restrictions. The official outreach from these states are key sources for constituents to learn about health threats and necessary safety precautions. Current health communication research argues that effectively conveying risks and mitigation strategies can be accomplished through the combined use of fear appeals and efficacy promotion. This research applies the recommendations of the Extended Parallel Process and Elaboration Likelihood Models to identify how successful NY and FL's COVID-19 messages were in arousing fear and promoting behavior change. Recognizing the cognitive needs and diverse backgrounds of constituents is also key in motivating them to attend to health messages and make necessary changes. Because of the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on those of low socioeconomic status and racial and ethnic minorities, this study analyzes the literacy levels of FL and NY's messages and the frequency of their references to minority groups. The results suggest that neither state holistically applied the aforementioned models nor demonstrated a consideration of the literacy levels and demographic backgrounds of constituents. As health inequities have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become more important than ever to identify and alleviate current gaps in public health outreach. Further research can test how other states used fear appeals and catered communication towards high-risk constituents to identify the magnitude of persuasive discontinuity in public health messages across the U.S.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: COVID-19; Elaboration Likelihood Model; Extended Parallel Process Model; health communication; health literacy; Social determinants of health; Fear appeals
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
MeSH Subjects: C Diseases > C02 Virus Diseases
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Social and Behavioral Science > School of Communication > Strategic Communications (Merchandising)
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2022 17:20
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2022 17:20
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5782

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