Early news coverage in the US about the COVID-19 pandemic focused on information released from local, state and federal government officials. With an emphasis on US government at these levels, this study examined whether the public’s credibility perceptions and trust in government, along with message exposure, influenced their adherence to information from the government about (a) stay-at-home orders, (b) social distancing and (c) COVID-19 testing. Source credibility theory and situational crisis communication theory provided the theoretical framework for this study. Through the survey data analysis, we investigated communication preferences in the wake of the pandemic and whether credibility perceptions differed according to the level of government. Survey findings revealed that message exposure influenced respondents’ perceived credibility of and trust in government officials during and after the stay-at-home order. Finally, practical implications regarding recommended communication strategies based on the findings were discussed.

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Published in Journal of Creative Communications.

© 2021 MICA-The School of Ideas

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