According to a Pew Research survey published on April 8, nearly a third of adults in the United States believe that the coronavirus was manufactured in a lab. This survey comes amidst a surge of misinformation surrounding the pandemic that currently has the world on lockdown.
The question asked of participants in the survey was phrased, “From what you’ve seen or heard, do you think it is most likely the current strain of the coronavirus…” and then provided them with the following six options: “Came about naturally,” “Was developed intentionally in a lab,” “Was made accidentally in a lab,” “Doesn’t really exist,” “Not sure” and “No answer.”
The study found that while 43 percent of individuals believe that the coronavirus most likely came about naturally, 29 percent say that it was most likely created in a lab. Within that 29 percent, 6 percent believe it was created accidentally in a lab and 23 percent believe it was created intentionally in a lab.
The study found that younger people were more likely to believe that the virus was created in a lab compared to older survey participants. The survey stated that the level of education attained by respondents also played a role, with those who never attended college significantly more likely to say that the coronavirus was created within a lab than those holding a bachelor’s degree or higher.
The divide in responses falls along racial lines as well, with 39 percent of Hispanic Americans and 34 percent of black Americans believing the coronavirus was created in a lab compared to 26 percent of whites.
The study also found that Republicans and those who lean Republican are more likely to believe that the coronavirus was created within a lab (37 percent) compared to Democrats and those who lean Democrat (21 percent). The percentage of self-professed conservatives who believe the virus was created in a lab is even higher, at 39 percent. Only 15 percent of self-professed liberals, by comparison, believe COVID-19 originated in a lab.
A previous Pew Research survey found that what people thought about the COVID-19 outbreak differed largely depending on their main news source.
In the survey, 66 percent of respondents who rely on MSNBC for their news said they believe the virus came about naturally while just 37 percent of Fox News consumers said the same.
CNN viewers scored somewhere in between the two, at 52 percent.
In addition, 58 percent of Fox News viewers reported that they thought that the media was covering the outbreak somewhat or fairly well compared to 92 percent of MSNBC viewers.
Regardless of their source of news, 48 percent of Americans reported having come across claims that COVID-19 had been made up. 12 percent reported they’d seen many such claims and 35 percent reported seeing just some.
Since early March, numerous virologists have debunked claims that the virus was artificially created in a lab, insisting that it originated from wildlife instead. Nevertheless, several high profile individuals, including Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, have stated otherwise.
Cotton appeared on Fox News to say that “The virus did not originate in the Wuhan animal market. Epidemiologists … have demonstrated that several of the original cases did not have any contact with that food market. The virus went into that food market before it came out of that food market.”
Cotton went further, saying, “We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level four super-laboratory, that researches human infectious diseases.
“Now, we don’t have evidence that this disease originated there but because of China’s duplicity and dishonesty from the beginning, we need to at least ask the question to see what the evidence says, and China right now is not giving evidence on that question at all.”
The Chinese ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, appeared on the CBS program “Face the Nation” where he called claims made by Cotton and others “absolutely crazy,” and added that such claims would trigger racial discrimination and xenophobia.
On April 12, Cotton tweeted, “Since I first learned of the Wuhan coronavirus in mid-January, common sense has been my guide. Not Chinese communist lies. Not “the models.” Not so-called “public-health experts.” Just common sense. Many elected leaders have also been guided by common sense. Others haven’t.”
Fox News also sparked a conspiracy theory after their Fox Asia analyst Gordon Chang incorrectly stated that the virus originated at the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory.
Fox News has since pulled the video. This is also a claim that has circulated the internet and other right-wing news outlets such as The Washington Times.
It also comes during a time where Asians around the world have reported being the targets of racism due to the outbreak.
According to Russell Jeung, the professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, there were more than 1,000 incidents of xenophobia and racism against Asian Americans between January 28 and February 24 this year.
President Trump and some media outlets have also been accused of facilitating xenophobia against the Asian population by labeling COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus.”