Majority of Americans With 'Conservative News Diet' Believe Coronavirus No More Deadly Than Seasonal Flu, New Poll Shows

The majority of Americans who regularly get their news from conservative sources inaccurately believe that the coronavirus pandemic is no more deadly than the common seasonal flu, according to new polling data.

A new survey by Gallup conducted from March 17 to 29 showed that 57 percent of Americans with a "conservative news diet" – including sources such as Fox News, Breitbart, One America News and the National Review – believed that the coronavirus posed the same risk or less of a risk than the seasonal flu. In reality, health experts have estimated that the novel virus is at least 10 to 20 times more deadly.

Conversely, the Gallup survey found that only 28 percent of those turning to only "liberal" media –including MSNBC, The New York Times, CNN and Vox – believed that coronavirus was less or equally deadly as the common flu. Meanwhile, just 36 percent of those who consumed a mix of conservative and liberal media believed incorrectly that the coronavirus was no more deadly than the flu.

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The News Corp. building on 6th Avenue, home to Fox News, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, on March 20, 2019 in New York City, New York Kevin Hagen/HollywoodTake

Some right-wing pundits and conservative lawmakers have faced criticism from medical professionals and health experts for repeatedly downplaying the threat of the coronavirus by comparing it to the common flu. President Donald Trump also repeatedly made the comparison, even as the number of deaths and confirmed cases rose rapidly across the country.

"So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on," Trump tweeted on March 9.

But Trump's tone has changed significantly in recent days. During a White House press briefing last Tuesday, the president said that "a lot of people" had previously compared coronavirus to the flu. Trump said that people had suggested: "Ride it out, don't do anything, just ride it out and think of it as the flu."

"But it's not the flu. It is vicious," he added.

The overall death rate from the coronavirus remains unclear. As of early Thursday afternoon, there were about 1.45 million confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world. Of those, close to 92,000 have died, while more than 340,000 have already recovered. Those numbers put the death rate from confirmed cases at a little over 6 percent. Comparatively, the seasonal flu has an average death rate of about 0.1 percent.

But health experts have noted that there are almost certainly many cases of coronavirus that have gone uncounted. Some individuals never show any symptoms, despite having contracted the virus. Additionally, a large number of individuals only experience mild symptoms. These people may never get tested and may not even be aware that they could have the coronavirus.

The death rate has also appeared to vary between countries. Analysts have noted that this could be due to a lack of testing. Many countries have struggled to adequately test their populations, meaning that often only the sickest patients get tested and are confirmed to have the virus. There could be a large number of sick individuals with mild cases that have been left uncounted in official totals. Despite the discrepancies and lack of testing, however, the data clearly shows that the coronavirus poses a far greater risk to human health than the common flu.