Small increase in attention to COVID-19 news; Fewer Republicans Now Say the US-Controlled Pandemic Is Good Enough

Small increase in attention to COVID-19 news;  Fewer Republicans Now Say the US-Controlled Pandemic Is Good Enough

One finding that has remained fairly steady since late 2020 is that Democrats and those who lean toward the Democratic Party are much more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say they follow news about the outbreak very closely. According to the new survey, 45% of Democrats are paying very close attention to news of the outbreak compared with 30% of Republicans, both slight increases from March 2021. That party divide was not seen early in the pandemic, but it emerged in the summer of 2020 and has been the case since. This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Shifts on both sides of the political aisle in views about how well the U.S. has controlled the outbreak

For this recent survey, 5,128 U.S. adults were surveyed from Jan. 10-17, 2022. Everyone who took part is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology. Over the past two years, Pew Research Center has tracked Americans’ views on the COVID-19 pandemic. This survey sought to measure how much attention the public has paid to it over time, their assessment of how it was handled and whether they believe it was made into a bigger deal or smaller deal than it really is.

Here are the questions used for the report, along with responses, and its methodology. In late March 2020, during the early stages of the outbreak, over half of all Americans (57%) were following news about the coronavirus very closely, a percentage that marked the high point in public attention. Earlier in the month, 51% of U.S. adults said the same.

There was less partisan movement on the question of whether the coronavirus outbreak has been made into a bigger deal or smaller deal than it really is, or if attention to it was about right. Roughly four-in-ten U.S. adults (39%) now say the pandemic has received about the right amount of attention. About the same portion (38%) say it has been made into a bigger deal, and 22% say it has been made into a smaller deal – numbers that have remained fairly steady since September 2020. The large partisan differences on this question have also shifted very little. Four times as many Republicans (64%) as Democrats (16%) now say the pandemic has been exaggerated. At the same time, Democrats are almost four times as likely as Republicans (33% vs. 9%) to say it has been downplayed. As of January, 41% of the public overall says the outbreak has been controlled as much as possible, about equal with the 42% who held this view last March. Within those numbers, though, are large shifts on both sides of the political aisle. Currently, 56% of Republicans say the U.S. has controlled the outbreak as much as it could have. While still a majority, this is down from 70% in March 2021. Democrats, on the other hand, have become more likely to hold this view: 30% now feel this way, up from 19% in March. 

Since the question was first asked in September 2020, Republicans have been far more likely than Democrats to say it has been controlled as much as it could have. While that is still the case, the gap between the two has narrowed, with Republicans becoming less likely to hold this view and Democrats more likely. One key COVID-19 issue that has produced a strong partisan divide is whether the United States has or has not controlled the coronavirus outbreak as much as it could have.

The News Highlights

  • Small increase in attention to COVID-19 news; Fewer Republicans Now Say the US-Controlled Pandemic Is Good Enough
  • Check the latest Health news updates and information about health.
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