Jul 21, 2020 - Health

Axios-Ipsos poll: The skeptics are growing

Data: Axios/Ipsos polls. May 1-4, 1,012 U.S. adults. July 17-20, 1,037 U.S. adults; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios
Data: Axios/Ipsos polls. May 1-4, 1,012 U.S. adults. July 17-20, 1,037 U.S. adults; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

A rising number of Americans — now nearly one in three — don't believe the virus' death toll is as high as the official count, despite surging new infections and hospitalizations, per this week's installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Between the lines: Republicans, Fox News watchers and people who say they have no main source of news are driving this trend.

Why it matters: It shows President Trump's enduring influence on his base, even as Americans overall say they are increasingly dissatisfied with his handling of the virus and political support is shifting toward Joe Biden.

What they're saying: "We live in highly tribal and partisan times, and people are more likely to believe cues and signals from their political leaders than the scientists or the experts," says Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.

  • "And that's just the purest form of populism, the demonization of experts to further political ends. But to what end? Fantasy is meeting reality head-on right now."
  • "People can see the world around them, they know it's different, but they still can think that the media and politicos are using it to go after Trump."

By the numbers: Overall, 31% of Americans say they believe the number of Americans dying is lower than the number reported, up sizably from 23% when we asked the same question in May.

Here's what's driving the shift in Week 17 of our national survey:

  • Republicans who say the death count is overinflated rose from 40% to 59%.
  • Among independents, that share rose from 24% to 32%.
  • The small share of Democrats with that view was effectively flat, ticking up from 7% to 9%.
  • Most Americans still believe the actual number of deaths is either higher (37%) or on par with (31%) the official count.

Where you get your news has a strong correlation to your faith in the numbers.

  • Fox News watchers who say deaths are being over-counted shot up from 44% to 62%, even higher than Republicans overall.
  • Other big gains came from those who say they have no primary news source, from 32% to 48%; and those whose primary sources include local news, from 30% to 44%.
  • There was a smaller increase among people whose primary news source is one of the networks or major U.S. newspapers, while views of those who primarily watch CNN and MSNBC remained about the same.

The big picture: The survey shows most Americans are digging in for a long fight against the virus, even if they have conflicting views about what to believe.

  • 72% say they're prepared to maintain social distancing or self-quarantining for as long as it takes — up from 49% in May — as people realize the end is more than a couple of months off.

This survey finds the highest overall use of face masks since the pandemic began — with 99% of Democrats and 75% of Republicans now saying they're wearing a mask sometimes or all of the time when they go out.

  • But there's enough inconsistency in people's precautions to undercut much of the gains.
  • Only 40% say they wore masks sometimes or all the time when visiting family and friends. And parents are less likely to make their children wear masks outside the home than to do so themselves.

1 big finger wag: Most Americans blame someone other than themselves for the crisis.

  • Three-fourths of respondents say most other Americans are behaving in ways that are making the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic worse, while one-fourth said they're making it better.
  • Democrats were more likely (83%) than other groups to say others are making things worse.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted July 17-20 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,037 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.
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