Story at a glance

  • The survey found the skepticism is divided along political lines, with 59 percent of Republicans believing the death count is fewer than reported, compared with 7 percent of Democrats.
  • The number of Americans who believe the fatality count is being exaggerated has increased since May.
  • The majority of Americans, however, believe the number of coronavirus deaths is either higher, 37 percent, or on par, 31 percent, with the official tally.

As the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continues to grow in the U.S., so does the number of Americans who believe the virus hasn’t killed as many people as has been reported, a new poll shows. 

The Axios-Ipsos poll released Tuesday found 31 percent of Americans say they believe the number of people dying in the U.S. is lower than the official count. That’s a notable increase from the 23 percent who agreed with the same claim in an Axios survey in May. 


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The survey found the skepticism is divided along political lines, with 59 percent of Republicans believing the death count is inflated, up from 40 percent of Republicans surveyed in May. Among independents, 32 percent agreed, up from 24 percent. Just 9 percent of Democrats agreed with the claim, a slight uptick from the 7 percent previously polled. 


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The majority of Americans, however, believe the number of coronavirus deaths is either higher, 37 percent, or on par, 31 percent, with the official tally. 

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The Axios-Ipsos poll also found where people get their news seems to play a role. 

Fox News viewers who claim deaths are being inflated increased from 44 percent in May to 62 percent. There was also an increase from those who said they have no primary news source, from 32 percent to 48 percent, and those whose primary sources include local news increased from 30 percent to 44 percent. 

CNN and MSNBC viewers are most likely to trust the official death count, with just 7 percent believing it has been overcounted. 

“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,” Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs, said according to Axios. 

The poll was conducted July 17-20 with a sample of 1,037 U.S. adults. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent points. 

The U.S. has recorded more than 3.9 million cases since the outbreak began with more than 142,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.


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Published on Jul 22, 2020