COVID-19 Lab Leak Theory Finds Public Backing in Several Latin American, European Countries
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As the world continues to investigate and disagree about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, the theory that the coronavirus spilled from a virology lab in Wuhan, China, is the most popular conclusion for people from several Latin American and European countries, according to a new Morning Consult survey.
Coronavirus Lab Leak Is the Preferred Theory for Many Adults in Various Latin American, European Countries
At least half of adults in eight countries back the lab leak theory
- A majority of adults from seven countries surveyed said they believe the pandemic began because the coronavirus leaked from a Chinese lab, as opposed to the conclusion that the virus moved naturally from animals to humans, while a plurality from five countries said the same.
- Roughly 3 in 5 Italian, Chilean and Colombian adults said they believe the lab leak theory, the most of the countries surveyed. Italy also had one of the highest shares of adults backing the lab leak theory among countries in June 2021 surveys. Roughly 1 in 4 Chilean and Colombian adults said they believe the virus moved naturally from animals to humans, while about 1 in 5 Italian adults said the same.
- Nearly 2 in 5 German adults said they believe the virus moved naturally from animals to humans, the most of any country, and a similar share said they believe the lab leak conclusion. The share of Canadian adults (33%) and Mexican adults (31%) who said they believe the virus moved naturally were the second and third largest among those surveyed.
Share of Americans Who Believe the Coronavirus Leaked From a Chinese Lab Falls From Record High
Share of U.S. adults backing the lab leak theory falls from record high
- The share of U.S. adults who backed the lab leak theory hit a record high of 51% in early March — a jump of 7 percentage points — after The Wall Street Journal reported that the Energy Department concluded the virus likely leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China. Roughly one month later, that growth has disappeared: 46% of adults said they believe the virus leaked from a Chinese lab, and 27% said they believe the virus moved naturally from animals to humans, a 9-point increase from the previous survey.
- The biggest change came among Republicans, with the share who backed the lab leak theory declining from 72% in early March to 62% in the latest survey. Meanwhile, the share of Democrats who backed the conclusion dropped from 42% to 37% over the same period, and the share of independents ticked up from 42% to 44%.
- Amid the shifts in the public’s opinions over the past month, roughly the same share of respondents (48%) said they have seen, read or heard “a lot” or “some” about The Wall Street Journal report.
Controversy on COVID-19 origins continues
The debate over what caused the pandemic is likely to heat up in the United States as House Republicans have a series of hearings planned, including an April 18 hearing with Trump administration officials.
Debates on the pandemic’s origins have also caused international controversy: China and the World Health Organization continue to go back and forth on whether the country’s lack of transparency is hurting investigations.
The Feb. 24-26, 2023, March 3-5, 2023, surveys and March 14-April 2, 2023, surveys were conducted among a representative sample of roughly 2,200 U.S. adults each and samples of roughly 1,000 adults in Australia and Latin American and European countries, respectively, with unweighted margins of error of +/- 2 and +/- 3 percentage points, respectively.
Ricky Zipp is a senior data data reporter at Morning Consult covering health. @zippricky