A majority of Republican Fox News viewers believe that the threat of the novel coronavirus is exaggerated, highlighting what experts say is a growing partisan gap in the view of the virus epidemic.
As Vox reported, the newly released poll from Survey 160 and Gradient Metrics shows that Republican Fox News viewers are among the most skeptical of the threat of COVID-19, even compared to other Republicans who don’t watch Fox News. The survey asked a sample of registered voters whether they were staying home from work and if they thought the media was overstating the threat of COVID-19. Results showed that Republicans were more skeptical, and that among that group, Fox News viewers were the most likely to believe that the threat is overblown.
Among Republican voters who watch Fox News, more than 60 percent believed that the media was overstating the crisis, the poll found.
This comes after a number of Fox News hosts were criticized for statements downplaying the pandemic, including several who characterized it as a “hoax” or “scam” meant to hurt Donald Trump politically. One of those, Fox Business host Trish Regan, was taken out of her primetime slot after calling the coronavirus an “impeachment scam,” and on Friday, she announced that she was leaving the network.
The Survey 160 and Gradient Metrics pollsters noted that Fox News has a microphone with a subset of the American public at higher risk of the coronavirus.
“Fox News is reaching a uniquely vulnerable audience, both because of their age and because of that audience’s attitudes [toward] the coronavirus outbreak,” Kevin Collins, the chief research officer of Survey 160, said in a press release accompanying the poll. “With that power comes a responsibility to ensure the public health message of social distancing and self-quarantining is heard clearly.”
As Vox noted, many Fox News hosts have shifted their tone since the early days of the outbreak and are now describing it in more appropriately dire notes. The outbreak has also spread considerably since the survey was first conducted, with the United States now surpassing Italy and China for the most cases in the world. Many states have also since adopted stringent measures to keep the virus from spreading, including closing all non-essential businesses and recommending that people stay in their homes as much as possible.
But Trump himself has begun to push back, saying this week that he would like to see the United States reopen as soon as possible, targeting Easter Sunday, April 12, as a date he would like to see shutdown measures rolled back. Experts say that would be too soon to successfully slow the outbreak of the virus.