Coronavirus: Partisan divide over concern grows since April, new survey shows

Coronavirus: Partisan divide over concern grows since April, new survey shows

As Americans slowly emerge from two months of coronavirus quarantine, partisan divides are emerging – and growing – right along with them, according to a recent survey.

Majorities on both sides of the aisle say they're somewhat or very concerned about the pandemic, according to a survey from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project. But the partisan split over that concern mirrors political leadership.

Robert Griffin, research director for the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, said Americans are "receiving signals from their political leaders about whether they should be concerned and responding to those signals."

President Donald Trump has struck an optimistic tone about the country's recovery from coronavirus as he pushes to reopen after lockdown orders to limit the spread of the disease shut down much of the country's economy. Among Republicans, 76% were concerned about the coronavirus in the United States, a 14 percentage point drop from April (90%).

But among Democrats, concern is relatively flat, according to an analysis from Nationscape Insights, a project of Democracy Fund, UCLA and USA TODAY.

Democrats have generally urged caution in opening up the country. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a Wednesday press conference the path to reopening the economy ran through "testing, tracing, treatment, and isolation, if necessary." Ninety-four percent of Democrats said they were concerned about the coronavirus in the United States compared with 96% in April.

The Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project is a large-scale study of the American electorate. Throughout the 2020 election cycle, the researchers aim to conduct 500,000 interviews about policies and the presidential candidates. This survey of 6,663 Americans was conducted the week of May 14. There is a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

Skepticism growing among both Democrats and Republicans

Compared to the beginning of April, more Americans are also expressing skepticism about news relating to the pandemic.

When asked if the threat of the coronavirus was exaggerated for political reasons, 46% of all Americans said that statement was probably or "definitely" true compared with 35% at the beginning of April.

Griffin said the survey showed "people are distrustful about what is happening," and the skepticism was a measure of how much they trusted the media, political authorities, and other sources of information.

More:Wear a mask in public? Sure. Majority of Democrats, Republicans say they have, survey shows

The skepticism about the severity of the pandemic was more pronounced among partisan lines.

Among Republicans, a majority (64%) said the threat was being exaggerated. That is a 20 percentage point jump compared to 44% in April.

But among Democrats, just 33% said the threat had been exaggerated for political purposes, up slightly from 28% in April, according to the survey.

Americans on both sides of the aisle also said they believed it was definitely or probably true the country was concealing the true number of coronavirus deaths. Sixty percent of Americans said they believed the true number of deaths was concealed, up from 48% percent of Americans surveyed at the beginning of April.

Again, there was a split among Democrats and Republicans, though both groups saw growth.

Sixty-seven percent of Democrats said they believed the true number of deaths was concealed, up from 54% in April. And 52% of Republicans said they believed the true number of deaths was concealed, up from 38% in April.

According to several dashboards tracking the coronavirus death toll, the United States reached 100,000 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday.

More:Coronavirus live updates: US hits 100,000 deaths from coronavirus as states continue to cautiously reopen

The survey also found increased numbers of Americans believing the coronavirus came from a lab, with a large increase among Republicans.

Some American politicians and conservative news outlets have claimed the coronavirus was man-made in a lab in Wuhan, China, but the majority of research on the coronavirus suggests it came from nature before jumping to humans.

Among all Americans, a slim majority (54%) now say it was likely the coronavirus came from a lab up from 44% in April.

Among Republicans, 70% said they believed the virus came from a lab up 20 percentage points from 50% in April. The increase among Democrats was smaller, with 43% reporting they believed the virus came from a lab, up from 37% in April.

More:Fact check: Coronavirus not man-made or engineered but its origin remains unclear

The margin of error for questions asked in April was +/- 2.2 percentage points.


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