Americans were repeatedly told by their own government and by major media outlets in recent years that the COVID-19 virus originated naturally, that it couldn't be a human-made virus. Now, recent reports strongly suggest, that the virus probably escaped from China's government-run Wuhan Institute of Virology. What to do?
Given the magnitude of the recent revelations, the I&I/TIPP Poll sought to ask the public how the U.S. government should respond. The overall reaction: The government needs to dig deeply into the origin and transmission of the deadly virus and tell Americans the truth about it.
Specifically, the I&I/TIPP nationwide online poll of 1,370, which was taken from March 1-3 with a +/-2.8 percentage point margin of error, stated: "A new government report says the COVID-19 virus 'likely arose' from a laboratory leak. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?"
Two statements were then given: "The report should be declassified," and "Congress must launch an investigation into the origins of the COVID virus."
Respondents were given five possible responses to the statements: "Agree strongly," "agree somewhat," "disagree somewhat," "disagree strongly," and "not sure."
Overall, the response was strong and relatively uniform across all groups.
For "the report should be declassified," 69% agreed, while 15% disagreed and 16% weren't sure. Broken down further, 44% said they agreed "strongly," while 25% agreed "somewhat." Among those who disagreed, just 7% said they did so "strongly," while 9% said only "somewhat."
Virtually all of the more than 21 demographic groups and subgroups were above 60% in their "agree" responses, with a small handful of exceptions: Those 18-24 years of age (59%), women (58%) and those with just a high school education (59%).
Significantly, agreement was strong across all major political affiliations. Democrats (74% agree), Republicans (69% agree) and independents (65% agree) all want to see the COVID information declassified.
The response was even stronger for the statement that "Congress must launch an investigation into the origins of the COVID virus."
By a sizable 76% (agree) to 12% (disagree) margin, the public supported a congressional investigation of how the COVID virus came to be. Only 11% said they weren't sure.
Just two of the many groups tracked came in below 70%, and in both cases, within the margin of error for the poll: Once again, 18-24 year olds (69% agree) and single women, also at 69%.
And, when it came to political parties, support was strong across the board.
On the final statement, Democrats (81%) and Republicans (80%) were in lock-step, while independents were still high at 69%, though weaker than the two major parties.
Looked at another way, that is by how respondents describe their own political beliefs, Americans strongly favored Congress investigating the devastating pandemic bug: Conservatives (83%), moderates (73%) and liberals (75%) all supported an investigation.
It boils down to this: More than three-fourths of Americans want more information on how and when the virus (which official data say has killed 1.12 million people in the U.S. alone) emerged in China, and where it came from.
Given the strength of support for both actions (declassifying and investigating the COVID outbreak), it might be tough for Congress to ignore or drag its feet on this public health issue.
The issue was given new life in late February, just days before the I&I/TIPP Poll began, when FBI Director Christopher Wray said that current intelligence suggested it was "most likely" that the COVID virus originated in a "Chinese government-controlled lab."
But Wray's bombshell remark came shortly after a surprising report from the Energy Department. Its intelligence concluded the virus most likely arose from a laboratory leak, repeating a 2021 assessment made by the FBI that was subsequently downplayed by both the media and the Biden administration.
"The Energy Department’s conclusion is the result of new intelligence and is significant because the agency has considerable scientific expertise and oversees a network of U.S. national laboratories, some of which conduct advanced biological research," noted the Wall Street Journal, which broke the story.
This flies in the face of repeated public government pronouncements doubting that the virus could have come from the Wuhan lab.
Early on, in April 2020, now-retired COVID czar Anthony Fauci called the theory that the virus jumped from the Wuhan Virology lab “a shiny object that will go away soon.” He later would claim that it was "molecularly impossible" for COVID to have mutated from viruses worked on in the Wuhan lab.
Similar sentiments were held by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, who likewise steadfastly denied that the virus could have escaped from the Wuhan lab complex.
Importantly, Fauci strongly denied to Congress that the U.S. had ever helped fund "gain of function" research by China's Wuhan lab, a major reason why our own government might want to strongly deny any financial connection the scientific facility. But, in fact, Fauci's denials to Congress proved to be false.
So, with skepticism over the government's handling of the COVID pandemic apparently growing, the ball has now landed in Congress' court.
The Senate late last week unanimously passed the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023, calling on U.S. Director of Intelligence Avril Haines to declassify all intelligence related to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, its coronavirus research, and "related activities" prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, including information connected to "researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology who fell ill in autumn 2019."
"For nearly three years, anyone asking whether COVID-19 originated as a lab leak outbreak was silenced and branded as a conspiracy theorist," said Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, co-sponsor with Indiana Sen. Mike Braun of the bill, in a statement.
"Now, these prudent skeptics stand vindicated. The Biden administration must immediately declassify all intelligence reports pertaining to the origins of COVID-19 and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The American people deserve to know the truth."
The Republican-led House could act as early this week to pass the bill, which would then give the U.S. director of intelligence 90 days to fulfill the request. A similar bill failed in 2021 in the Democrat-controlled House.
I&I/TIPP publishes timely, unique and informative data each month on topics of public interest. TIPP’s reputation for polling excellence comes from being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.
Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor, and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.
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