A majority of Americans believe coronavirus leaked from a Chinese laboratory, according to a new Politico-Harvard poll.
A total of 52 percent of poll respondents said the virus was released either accidentally or intentionally from a lab, compared to 29 percent in a March 2020 Pew Research Center poll.
Only 28 percent in the Politico-Harvard poll – to be released next week – said the virus spread after human contact with an infected animal.
Former President Donald Trump received much criticism in April last year after suggesting the virus might have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
In the Politico-Harvard poll, 59 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats said they believed the virus came from a lab – surprisingly close percentages between people from the two major parties.
Nearly two-thirds of Democrats and Republicans in the poll called the coronavirus origin issue "extremely" or "very" important.
“Usually, our polls find a big split between Republicans and Democrats, so this is unique," Bob Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who designed the poll, told Politico.
"More conservative media have been carrying the 'lab leak' issue, and it's been a Trump talking point from the beginning, so we expected people who lean Democratic would say either 'It's not true' or 'I don’t know.' But the belief is bipartisan."
In late May, CNN reported the Biden administration stopped a State Department investigation launched late last year into whether the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab.
President Joe Biden then quickly ordered the U.S. intelligence community to "redouble" its effort to determine the coronavirus' origin.
Blendon told Politico that Democrats likely became more receptive to the idea after Biden's order, and after White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said the issue was worth investigating.
"That the president thought there was enough evidence to ask intelligence agencies to put together a report sends a signal to Democrats that there might be something there," Blendon told Politico.
The House Science Committee has scheduled its first hearing on the issue for next week, and several other congressional committees have launched probes, according to Politico.
Late last month, Trump administration coronavirus task force member Adm. Brett Giroir testified the "most likely" origin of the COVID-19 pandemic is an accidental lab leak in Wuhan.
"I assess that the most likely origin was an accidental infection of laboratory personnel from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, with secondary transmission to the local population and subsequent spread to hundreds of millions of people around the world," Giroir told House Republicans during a hearing by the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
The Biden administration's upcoming report on the virus origin is due in August. Politico said public opinion might not be swayed even if the report says the virus came from nature.
Worldometer reported more than 4 million people worldwide have died due to COVID-19, caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. In the U.S., more than 622,00 have died and more than 34 million have been infected with the virus.
The Politico-Harvard poll surveyed 1,009 adults from June 22-27. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
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