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Half of Utah voters believe the news media is exaggerating the risk posed by the coronavirus outbreak according to a new Utah Political Trends survey.

The UtahPolicy.com/2News survey from Y2 Analytics finds 30 percent of respondents believe the news media has “greatly exaggerated” the risks from the coronavirus pandemic, while another 20 percent say the news media has “slightly exaggerated” the threat. 42 percent of respondents believe the media has gotten the risks from coronavirus “about right” while 8 percent said the news media hasn’t taken the risks seriously enough. Just 1 percent think the news media has not taken the threat seriously at all.

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There is a sharp partisan divide in attitudes toward the news media’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Republicans are far more likely to believe that the media is overhyping the risk from the virus while Democrats tend to think the media’s coverage is accurately portraying the danger.

Nearly 3/4ths of “strong” Republicans say the media is exaggerating the threat of the virus, as does 55 percent of moderate Republicans and 62 percent of independents who lean toward the GOP. 

That makes sense as President Donald Trump spent months minimizing the risk presented by the coronavirus. For example, The first U.S. case was confirmed on January 21. The following day, President Trump told a reporter that the virus was “totally under control.” A month later as the stock market began to plummet, President Trump tweeted that the virus was “very much under control in the USA.” He also said Democrats and the media were overhyping the situation, saying “this is their new hoax.” It’s unclear whether he was referring to the virus as a hoax or news coverage of the illness.

Similarly, conservative media outlets, chief among them Fox News and radio host Rush Limbaugh, downplayed the threat for months.

Clear majorities of “strong” Democrats, moderate Democrats and independent voters who lean Democrat believes the media coverage of the virus is accurately portraying the risk presented by the coronavirus.

Independent voters are nearly evenly split on attitudes about media coverage of the virus.

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These results track with a recent national poll that found more than half of Republicans are more likely to see an exaggerated threat in news coverage of the virus, while Democrats and independents think stories about the virus either correctly convey the risk from the coronavirus or underestimate the danger.

The survey also found a large gender gap in perceptions of news coverage about the virus. Men were more likely to think the news media is exaggerating while women mostly believe reporting is accurately conveying the threat from the disease.

Just as Republicans believe the media is overstating the threat from the virus, Utahns further to the right politically also think the media coverage is more fatalistic than it needs to be.

  • 59 percent of self-described “strongly conservative” voters say the news media has greatly exaggerated the risk from coronavirus, while another 20 percent think news stories are slightly overstating the danger.
  • Nearly 2/3rds of Utahns who say they are moderately conservative believe the media is overstating the risk.
  • Moderates and liberals mostly think the coverage of the pandemic accurately reflects the risks posed to the public.

The Utah Political Trends survey was conducted by Y2 Analytics from March 21-30 among 1,331 likely Utah voters with a margin of error +/- 2.7 percentage points.

You can read more about our polling methodology here.

UtahPolicy.com recently partnered with KUTV 2News and Y2 Analytics and will be providing polling results on a regular basis throughout the election season.