Poll: 52 percent of Americans believe COVID-19 came from a lab

Researcher tests COVID-19 samples
(Image credit: BRIAN ONGORO/AFP via Getty Images)

A majority of Americans now back the COVID-19 lab leak theory, and "the belief is bipartisan," according to a new poll.

In a Politico-Harvard survey, 52 percent of respondents said they believe that COVID-19 came out of a lab, with this including 59 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats, while 28 percent said they believe the coronavirus came from an infected animal. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health professor Bob Blendon, who designed the poll, noted to Politico the surprising lack of a partisan divide on the question.

"Usually, our polls find a big split between Republicans and Democrats, so this is unique," he said. "More conservative media have been carrying the 'lab leak' issue, and it's been a Trump talking point from the beginning, so we expected people who lean Democratic would say either 'It's not true' or 'I don't know.' But the belief is bipartisan."

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Blendon also noted that the shift in perception among Democrats could be a result of President Biden ordering intelligence agencies to look into the virus' origins. "That the president thought there was enough evidence to ask intelligence agencies to put together a report sends a signal to Democrats that there might be something there," Blendon explained. The idea was once seen as more of a fringe conspiracy theory, though, and former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said in June he received death threats from other scientists for backing it.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said that he and other experts still believe COVID-19's origins are more likely to involve "a natural jumping of species from an animal reservoir to a human," though he has said that people should "keep an open mind."

The Politico-Harvard poll spoke with 1,009 adults from June 22-27. The margin of error was 3.8 percentage points. Read more at Politico.

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.