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Tomorrow marks the third anniversary since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. Three years on and much has changed, including opinions on how the virus started, with one origin theory having taken particular hold in the United States.
According to the latest survey carried out by The Economist and YouGov, a majority of U.S. adults now think that Covid originated in a laboratory in China, whether either intentionally or as a chance mutation. As our chart shows, 66 percent of U.S. respondents thought this theory was either probably or definitely true. Republicans were more likely to take this stance, with 86 percent agreeing with the statement (54 percent definitely, 32 percent probably), followed by Independents with 62 percent (26 percent definitely, 36 percent probably) and lastly Democrats with 54 percent (16 percent definitely, 38 percent probably).
Despite conflicting theories, the exact origin story of the Covid-19 virus remains unknown. While the U.S. Department of Energy has said that Covid could have come from a lab leak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the organization has admitted to having “low confidence” in its findings. The other main theory under discussion is that the virus could have jumped from animals to humans, for example in an animal market. Experts warn against overconfidently declaring such theories as the truth without enough evidence, since falsehoods can pit sides against one another and breed distrust.
This erosion of trust appears to be already happening, as in the same survey, 83 percent of respondents said that they had either “not very much” trust or none “at all” in what the Chinese government says about the origins of Covid, while 57 percent said that they either had “not very much” trust or none “at all” in what the U.S. government says about the virus’ origins.
China has responded to the lab leak report by saying that the U.S. is politicizing the debate.
This chart shows the share of U.S. adults that think Covid originated in a laboratory in China.
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