Most Americans now accept the theory that COVID leaked from a lab in Wuhan, a new poll found Friday, illustrating a dramatic shift in opinion from when the idea was dismissed as a fringe conspiracy theory.
The survey found 52% of people believe the virus leaked from a lab, including 59% of Republicans and 52% of Democrats, compared to 28% of respondents who said it was from an infected animal.
The Politico-Harvard study shows that what was once covered by liberal media as a far-right fake news story is now broadly accepted on a bipartisan basis. By contrast, in March 2020 just 29% of Americans accepted the lab leak theory.
The survey found 52% of people believe the virus leaked from a lab, which is commonly identified as the Wuhan Institute of Virology (pictured)Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
The absence of a large bipartisan split is particularly notable, according to poll designer Bob Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
'Usually, our polls find a big split between Republicans and Democrats, so this is unique,' he said.
'More conservative media have been carrying the ''lab leak'' issue, and it's been a Trump talking point from the beginning, so we expected people who lean Democratic would say either ''It's not true'' or ''I don't know.'' But the belief is bipartisan.'
The lab leak concept was widely ridiculed by Democrats, with VP Kamala Harris even going so far as to say in June 2020 that Trump's endorsement of it represented, 'racist and xenophobic rhetoric against Asian Americans and Asian immigrants directly puts their lives at risk.'
Blendon said Democrats were likely to have become more receptive to the idea after President Joe Biden ordered the US intelligence services to investigate it.
Biden's chief medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, has flip-flopped on the issue, but recently said it was worth looking into.
'We always said keep an open mind and continue to look,' he told CBS News.
Whether or not they believe the lab leak theory, Americans are united about the need to investigate COVID's origins, with almost two-thirds of Republicans and Democrats calling the issue 'very' or 'extremely' important.
The Politico-Harvard survey shows that what was once covered by liberal media as a far-right fake news story is now broadly accepted on a bipartisan basisInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
April 2020: Fauci repeatedly made public statements suggesting COVID was the result of an 'unusual human-animal interface' in a Chinese 'wet market' and that 'the mutations that it took to get to the point where it is now is totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human.'
May 2020: Still adamant that he didn't believe COVID was man-made, Fauci told National Geographic: 'If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what's out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated.
'Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.'
Late May 2021 to early June 2021: During an event called 'United Facts of America: A Festival of Fact-Checking,' Fauci was asked if was 'still confident' that the virus evolved naturally.
'No, actually… I am not convinced about that. I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened.
'Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out.'
'So, you know, that's the reason why I said I'm perfectly in favor of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus.'
The poll surveyed 1,009 adults from June 22 to 27. Former CDC director Dr Robert Redfield backed the lab leak theory last month, saying he thinks COVID was 'taught and educated' by scientists before emerging into the wider world.
Redfield implied he believed the virus had been modified before leaking from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China because it is not 'biologically plausible' that it could have become so infectious had it jumped from an animal host to humans.
In a wide-ranging interview with Fox News contributor Dr Marc Siegel on June 15, Redfield doubled down on his belief that COVID was leaked from the Chinese lab after being tweaked by scientists.
The virus is believed to have originated in bats, but debate is currently raging over whether it leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology - and whether it was modified by Chinese scientists to become more contagious beforehand.
Redfield also said Dr Anthony Fauci was 'holding on tightly' to the theory that the virus evolved naturally, before likening the White House COVID tsar to a 'dog with a bone.'
And he slammed the 'highly compromised' World Health Organization for not cracking down on China at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and for letting its communist government dictate the terms of the WHO probe into the origins of COVID.
Redfield, who was CDC director under the Trump administration, first revealed back in March that he believes the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab.
Evidence has been mounting that supports the lab leak theory and President Biden has ordered a 90-day intelligence review to investigate the possibility. Donald Trump and his supporters were widely derided for sharing the same theory last year when he was president.