Young people believe coronavirus conspiracy theories less than other Montenegrin citizens
Young people aged 18–29 are less afraid of coronavirus, more engaged in fact-checking information and believe conspiracy theories on coronavirus less
PODGORICA, 3 OCTOBER 2021 – Young citizens of Montenegrins aged 18–29 years believe coronavirus conspiracy theories less compared to the overall population: only one in five young people (19%) believe coronavirus conspiracy theories, while this is the case with as many as one-third of adult citizens of Montenegro (34%). These are the findings of a survey conducted earlier this year by the research agency Ipsos on a nationally representative sample, with the support of the British Embassy in Podgorica and UNICEF.
A significant difference can be seen with the conspiracy theory claiming that 5G technology causes or spreads coronavirus, but that this fact is being concealed so that companies dealing with 5G technology can continue to make a lot of profit. While 31 percent of adults in Montenegro believe this conspiracy theory, far fewer young people – 17 percent – share this belief. This difference may be the result of young people’s greater experience with digital technologies, as this research also shows that 99 percent of young people aged 18–29 years are online, compared to 85 percent of the citizens of Montenegro. Also, 94 percent of young people have social media accounts, while this is the case with 79 percent of the adult citizens of Montenegro. While 84% of young people say that they can speak English well enough to be able to understand information in that language on the internet, only 54% of the citizens of Montenegro make the same claim.
A significant difference can also be observed in the belief in the conspiracy theory that global elites created COVID-19 in order to genetically modify people using a vaccine against the virus. While 35 percent of Montenegrin citizens believe this conspiracy, this is the case with 20 percent of young people aged 18–29 years.
Twenty-three percent of the citizens of Montenegro believe that COVID-19 does not exist, but that it is rather a conspiracy of global elites to take freedom away from people. However, this percentage is significantly lower among young people aged 18–29 years; this percentage stands at 14 percent.
This difference in the figures between young people and all adult citizens is similar when it comes to belief in the conspiracy theory that Bill Gates wants to use the campaign of mass vaccination against COVID-19 to implant microchips in humans, which would then be used to track people using a digital identification number. While 21 percent of Montenegrin citizens believe this conspiracy theory, that is the case with just over half as many young people – 11 percent of them.
Many studies undertaken worldwide indicate that fear increases people’s propensity to believe conspiracy theories. Research on this topic in Montenegro shows that young people believe conspiracy theories about coronavirus less than others and that they are, at the same time, less afraid of COVID-19. While 44 percent of Montenegrin citizens see coronavirus as a serious threat to themselves personally, the same is reported by 25 percent of young people aged 18–29 years.
Research worldwide has found that greater media literacy decreases conspiracy theory endorsement. This lower share of young people who believe conspiracy theories may be also related to the fact that a higher percentage of young people report trying to verify the information they find using other sources available. In other words, young people say that they are engaging more in a critical analysis of information aimed at checking whether this information is true or not, which is one of the key media literacy competencies. Specifically, 55% of young people aged 18–29 years claim to be doing this, compared to 45% of the adult citizens of Montenegro.
The fact that the share of young people who are not sure whether to believe conspiracy theories about coronavirus or not is high indicates that talking to them about these issues is crucial. Namely, while 33 percent, that is, one-third, of the citizens of Montenegro, are not sure whether to believe conspiracy theories on COVID-19, the share of young people who neither believe nor disbelieve conspiracy theories about coronavirus stands at 45 percent.
The nationally representative sample for this survey included 821 respondents aged 18 or over across the country. Data collection was performed in the period from 24 to 26 March this year through a telephone questionnaire, whose average duration was 20 minutes. The key findings of this research are available on UNICEF Montenegro’s website.