Majority of Americans Believe COVID-19 Leaked from Wuhan Lab, New Poll Finds

Policy

Members of the World Health Organization team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus sit in a car at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, February 3, 2021. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

A majority of Americans — 72 percent — believe the COVID-19 pandemic originated with a lab leak in Wuhan, China and that the Chinese government then lied about it, a new poll found. 

The poll, Ronald Reagan Institute’s 2021 National Defense Survey, also found that 42 percent of Americans believe it is “very likely” the pandemic stemmed from a Chinese lab leak.

Majorities from both parties agreed, with 86 percent of Republicans believing it is likely that COVID-19 leaked from a Wuhan lab and 61 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of independents in agreement, the poll shows.

Meanwhile, 76 percent of respondents said China should pay reparations to other nations as a penalty if it is determined that it did cover up a lab leak; 82 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of both Democrats and Independents agreed.

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The survey comes after a declassified intelligence report revealed last month that the FBI concluded with “moderate confidence” that the pandemic began with a “laboratory accident” following a 90-day review ordered by President Biden earlier this year. The report did not name the single agency that supported the lab-leak theory, though the New York Times has identified that agency as the FBI.

A summary of the 17-page report released in August outlined intelligence agencies’ conclusions on the outbreak and revealed that the agencies were unable to determine whether the coronavirus jumped from an animal to a human or leaked from a lab.

The declassified report noted that four agencies within the intelligence community and the National Intelligence Council concluded with “low confidence” that the pandemic began with a jump from animal to human, rather than a lab leak. Several other agencies were not able to come to a conclusion.

Several virology labs are located in Wuhan, where the pandemic began, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where bat coronaviruses were studied. Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO food safety and animal diseases expert who led the organization’s investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus, said in a documentary released in August that Chinese researchers in the group fought against connecting the origins of the pandemic to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in a report detailing the investigation.

“In the beginning, they didn’t want anything about the lab [in the report], because it was impossible, so there was no need to waste time on that,” Ben Embarek said. “We insisted on including it, because it was part of the whole issue about where the virus originated.”

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