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Conor Norris

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Misperceptions of COVID Risk and the Media

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Despite the blistering pace of the 24-hour news cycle, COVID-19 has dominated headlines since the beginning of 2020 and will continue to for the foreseeable future. But for all the time we’ve spent watching and reading pandemic media, we still don’t have an accurate perception of the risk we face from COVID-19.

I am not talking about a slight misperception. People surveyed are spectacularly wrong, despite, or because of, wall-to-wall coverage of the pandemic. 

Here are the stats. Among those surveyed by Gallup, on average respondents thought that just under 58 percent of COVID-19 deaths were people aged 55 and up. In reality, 92 percent of deaths fall in that age range. At the same time, they overestimate the risk for young people. Respondents believed that 8 percent of deaths were people 24 years old and under, when only 0.2 percent were.

To put that in perspective, they believed that young people accounted for 50 times their true proportion of deaths.
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