Most Americans say they have contracted the coronavirus, and the infected are more likely to be Republicans, says a new poll by Monmouth University in New Jersey. “This appears to be the first poll to show a majority of Americans saying they’ve been infected at some point,” reports Aaron Blake of The Washington Post. “Other polls from recent months have shown a sharp uptick in those who report testing positive — particularly during the rise of the omicron variant — but Monmouth’s poll brings in those who believe they’ve contracted the virus but lack a diagnosis.”
In the March 10-14 telephone survey, 52 percent of respondents said they had contracted the virus, up from 40% in late January, and 57% percent of Republicans said they had been infected, but only 38% of Democrats said they had. In January, the numbers were 50% and 28%. “This tracks with polls that more narrowly surveyed self-reported positive tests. It also suggests the gap has grown since the pandemic began,” Blake notes.
Blake casts a skeptical eye: “Is the gap really this big? Polls asking people to self-report things like an infection are prone to response bias. Democrats might be less willing to acknowledge falling ill: Given the emphasis on mitigation on their side of the political aisle, they might view infection as some kind of moral failing. Republicans, by contrast, have long been more likely to argue that mitigation efforts have gone overboard and the virus is overblown. What better way to prove that than to say you personally contracted the virus and lived to tell the tale?
“But if that were a major factor, you might expect the gap between Republicans and Democrats to be greater when it comes to one specific self-reported measure: non-diagnosed cases. This would seem a prime opportunity for Republicans to say they believe they’ve had the virus even if they might not have, and for Democrats to downplay their infection status. On both sides, though, about 1 in 5 who say they’ve had the virus lacked a diagnosis.
“Notably, this gap in self-reporting didn’t always exist. Early in the pandemic, the percentage of Republicans and Democrats reporting positive tests was roughly equal — and for much of 2021, the gaps weren’t nearly as wide as they are now. Of course, this difference may be inflated by self-reporting. But the fact that even that self-reporting gap has grown is important. And it provides even more evidence that, as the pandemic has progressed, the virus has hit Republicans harder.”
Despite the greater prevalence of infection, “The number of people who are very concerned about a family member becoming seriously ill from the virus (23%) has dropped to its lowest point since last June (also 23%),” Monmouth reports. “This marks a 15-point decrease over the past two months.” The biggest drop was among Democrats: 30% in March, compared with 61% in January,