Most Americans Now Think COVID Came From Wuhan Lab, New Survey Shows

A new poll shows that more Americans now think COVID-19 originated in a laboratory in China, rather than through natural transmission from bats to humans.

The survey from The Economist/YouGov found 58 percent of Americans said COVID-19 came from a Wuhan lab, up from 49 percent who said the same when the pollsters first asked the question in May of 2020. Meanwhile, 18 percent said it was "definitely or probably false" that the virus came from a Chinese lab, while 24 percent said they didn't know.

A coronavirus particle
Stock image showing an artist's illustration of a coronavirus particle. A new poll finds more Americans believe COVID-19 was created in a Wuhan lab. iStock

The World Health Organization has asserted since the outbreak began that the coronavirus likely originated through natural transmission between bats and humans. However, only 13 percent of poll respondents said they believe this theory. More believe it was created in a lab and released intentionally (24 percent), while others said they think it was lab-created and accidentally released (18 percent). A smaller portion believe the coronavirus was a naturally-occurring disease that was being studied in a laboratory when it was released accidentally (12 percent).

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say the virus came from a Wuhan lab, according to the poll. Seventy-seven percent of respondents who identified as Republicans agreed with the statement that a laboratory in China was the origin of the virus responsible for COVID-19. That number is little changed since 2020, when 72 percent of Republicans said the same in a similar poll. This sentiment aligns with what many Republican politicians have said during the course of the pandemic, including former President Donald Trump, who has insisted since April 2020 that the virus came from a lab in China.

Democrats surveyed were less likely to believe that COVID-19 is a lab creation, though more are warming up to the theory. In The Economist/YouGov poll, 43 percent said it's "definitely or probably true" that a laboratory in China was the origin of the virus responsible for COVID-19. That's an increase of 10 percentage points from last year's 33 percent who said the same.

Independents are also increasingly more likely to say they believe the lab theory, per the survey. Sixty-five percent of Independents said they now believe the coronavirus was created in a China lab, an increase of 17 percentage points from last year's 48 percent who responded with the same answer.

Respondents who had more education tended to side with the origin story posited by the science community. Twenty-one percent of college graduates said they believe the virus naturally mutated in the wild, compared to 26 percent without a college degree who said COVID-19 originated in a laboratory.

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