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Politics Divide Views of Coronavirus and its Coverage

Almost a third of the people polled for a new study of media coverage of the coronavirus said it was either developed intentionally in a laboratory (23%), or unintentionally in a lab (6%) or that the whole pandemic is made up. 

That is according to the latest Pew Research Center Election News Pathways Project survey. 

Republicans were almost twice as likely as Democrats to say that the virus was created intentionally in a lab, said Pew. 

Republicans are also much more likely to say a vaccine will be available "within a few months" (28% Republicans vs. 17% Democrats). Most health officials put the timeline at a year to 18 months. 

There is also a partisan divide over the seriousness of the threat. 

According to Pew, 59% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said it is a major threat to the U.S. population as a whole, while only a 33% of Republicans and Republican leaners said so. 

The majority of the respondents gave the media "fairly high" marks for coverage, with 30% saying they were covering it "somewhat well" and 40% "very well." But in the same breath, or at least the same survey, a majority also said the news media have exaggerated the risks of the virus, with 37% saying they have greatly exaggerated them and 25% saying they have slightly done so. Only 8% said they have underplayed the seriousness, with the balance (about 30%) saying they have gotten it about right. 

It may just be the Dr. Anthony Fauci effect, but 83% of respondents said they are either "very" or "somewhat "confident that CDC officials are doing a good job, including 40% who said they are "very confident." 

*According to Pew: "The survey was conducted March 10-16 among 8,914 U.S. adults who are members of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 1.6 percentage points for results based on the full sample."

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.