From Two-Step Flow to the Internet: The Changing Array of Sources for Genetics Information Seeking

Donald O. Case, University of Kentucky
J. David Johnson, University of Kentucky
James E. Andrews, University of Kentucky
Suzanne L. Allard, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Kimberly M. Kelly, University of Kentucky


The diffusion of the Internet has radically expanded the readily available sources for information of all types. Information that was once obtained second-hand from friends and acquaintances—the traditional “two-step flow”—is now found easily through the Internet. The authors make use of survey data to explore this thesis in regards to information sources about genetic testing and the influence of the Internet on the information seeking behaviors of the public. A telephone survey of a random sample of 882 adults asked them about their knowledge of, concerns about, and interest in genetic testing. Respondents were most likely to first turn to the Internet for information about cancer genetics, second to public libraries, and third to medical doctors. Overall, doctors were the most likely source to be consulted when second and third choices are considered. Age, income, and self-reported understanding of genetics are shown to be predictors of whether someone goes to medical professionals for advice, rather than to the Internet or public library. The results raise questions about the apparent tendency of the public to regard the Internet as the best source of information on complex topics like genetics, for which it may be ill-suited.