The Energy Department’s newly revealed conclusion that the COVID-19 pandemic likely began because the coronavirus leaked from a Chinese laboratory as opposed to natural transmission from animals to humans thrust the origin debate back into the international spotlight this week, showing that even U.S. agencies are not on the same page about how the crisis started.
After three years of the pandemic — and three years of investigations, reports and rumors of its origins — a Morning Consult survey conducted days before the Energy Department revelation shows that a 44% plurality of U.S. adults believe the virus spilled from a virology lab in Wuhan, China, a share that has roughly held steady since June 2021.
Over 2 in 5 Americans Believe the Coronavirus Leaked From Wuhan Lab
Republicans are more than twice as likely than Democrats to back the lab leak theory
- While over 2 in 5 U.S. adults said they believe the pandemic began because the virus spilled from the Wuhan lab, roughly 1 in 4 think the virus moved naturally from animals to humans. Both figures are virtually unchanged since a June 2021 survey on the topic.
- About 2 in 3 Republicans back the theory that the virus leaked from a lab, more than double the share of Democrats (32%) who said the same. Meanwhile, just 14% of Republicans believe the pandemic began because of the natural transmission of the virus, compared with 39% of Democrats.
- Among independents, 43% said they don’t know or have no opinion on the pandemic’s origins, while 38% believe the virus leaked from a lab and 19% believe it was transmitted naturally.
The Public Trusts the World Health Organization on COVID-19 Origins More Than U.S. Intelligence Agencies, Congress
About 1 in 4 U.S. adults say they trust Republicans to investigate the origins of the pandemic
- Among all U.S. adults, 55% said they trust the World Health Organization “a lot” or “some” to be honest and transparent about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with 50% who said the same about U.S. intelligence agencies and 45% about Congress. Roughly 1 in 5 adults said they trust the Wuhan Institute of Virology to be transparent and honest about the pandemic’s origins, and about 1 in 6 said they trust the Chinese government.
- As House Republicans ramp up their investigation into the origins of the pandemic, 27% of respondents said they trust congressional Republicans to handle such investigations, compared with 40% who said they trust Democrats and 33% who said they don’t know or have no opinion.
- Nearly 3 in 4 Americans said they either “strongly” or “somewhat” support the U.S. investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 crisis, compared with just 11% who said they oppose the investigation.
The debate over the pandemic’s origins will likely receive even more attention as House Republicans have recently requested testimony and documents on the matter from current and former Biden administration officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Fauci said in a November White House press conference that he would fully cooperate with an investigation.
The Feb. 24-26, 2023, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,201 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.