Apr 3, 2020 - Health

The right and left internet loves Anthony Fauci

Data: Newswhip; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

If you feel like you're suddenly spending a surprising amount of your days thinking and talking about Anthony Fauci, you're not alone. He's become the third-most talked about person online, according to data from NewsWhip provided to Axios.

Why it matters: Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health office that deals with infectious diseases, has quickly become a household name, and one of the few household names with (mostly) bipartisan credibility.

By the numbers: A Fox News poll last week shows Fauci has a 77% approval rating — well above any figure in the U.S. government.

  • According to our NewsWhip data, President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were the only people with more online mentions than Fauci over the last two weeks.

What they're saying: Of the top 40 stories about Fauci by interactions (likes, comments, shares) on social media, none had negative sentiment, and several were positively glowing. Those stories included:

  • "Dr. Anthony Fauci and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are the most trusted leaders in America on the coronavirus right now. Trump is not." (Business Insider)
  • "Thank God the Doctor Is In" (Maureen Dowd in the New York Times)
  • "Can we have daily briefings with just Trevor Noah, Dr. Fauci, and no one else? Please?" (Upworthy)

Between the lines: Fauci has been able to strike a rare balance that has mostly avoided alienating either side of the political aisle during the coronavirus crisis.

  • On sites with left-leaning audiences, the top Fauci-related stories focused on instances when he contradicted President Trump or gave more pessimistic forecasts than the president.
  • Right-leaning publishers' top stories have been about Fauci criticizing the press for seeking to create a rift between him and the president, and instances of praise for Trump.

Yes, but: The internet is still the internet. Fauci recently received a security detail, in response to "threats as well as unwelcome communications from fervent admirers," per the Washington Post.

  • Still, although some far-right commentators have worked to build distrust against Fauci, more Republicans approve of Fauci (85%) than Democrats (74%), per the Fox News poll.

The bottom line: In these polarized times, few people are trusted across the political spectrum — particularly when they’re standing behind a podium at the White House. Fauci has proven to be the exception.

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