Americans on the right half of the political spectrum have tended to underplay the risk of Covid-19. They have been less willing to wear masks or avoid indoor gatherings and have been more hesitant to get vaccinated.
These attitudes are part of a larger pattern in which American conservatives are often skeptical of public-health warnings from scientists — on climate change, air pollution, gun violence, school lunches and more. In the case of Covid, Republican politicians and media figures have encouraged risky behavior by making false statements about the virus.
To many liberals, Covid has become another example of the modern Republican Party’s hostility to facts and evidence. And that charge certainly has some truth to it. Yet the particular story with Covid is also more complicated — because conservatives aren’t the only ones misinterpreting scientific evidence in systematic ways. Americans on the left half of the political spectrum are doing it, too.
That’s a central finding from a survey of 35,000 Americans by Gallup and Franklin Templeton. It finds that both liberals and conservatives suffer from misperceptions about the pandemic — in opposite directions. “Republicans consistently underestimate risks, while Democrats consistently overestimate them,” Jonathan Rothwell, Gallup’s principal economist, and Sonal Desai, a Franklin Templeton executive, write.
a major source of transmission, and Covid has killed about 15 times more Americans than either the flu or vehicle crashes do in a typical year.
Democrats, on the other hand, are more likely to exaggerate the severity of Covid. When asked how often Covid patients had to be hospitalized, a very large share of Democratic voters said that at least 20 percent did. The actual hospitalization rate is about 1 percent.
only 0.04 percent of Covid deaths.
It’s true that some of these misperceptions reflect the fact that most people are not epidemiologists and that estimating medical statistics is difficult. Still, the errors do have a connection to real-world behavior, Rothwell told me.