According to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, 44 percent of Republicans believe that Bill Gates is plotting to use a mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign as a pretext to implant microchips in billions of people and monitor their movements — a widely debunked conspiracy theory with no basis in fact.
The survey, which was conducted May 20 and 21, found that only 26 percent of Republicans correctly identify the story as false.
In contrast, just 19 percent of Democrats believe the same spurious narrative about the Microsoft founder and public-health philanthropist. A majority of Democrats recognize that it’s not true.
As states relax their lockdown restrictions and responsibility for containing the coronavirus shifts, in part, to the American people, the vast gap between the right and the left over Gates reflects a growing problem: the dangerous, destabilizing tendency to ignore fundamental facts about the deadly pathogen in favor of misinformation peddled by partisans, including President Trump, and spread on social media.
That tendency is more widespread on the right, although liberals also believe some false narratives (including that COVID-19 deaths have already surged in states that were quick to reopen).
The new Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that this “choose your own reality” effect is distorting perceptions of nearly every aspect of the pandemic, from reopening to vaccination to the official death toll. A broad majority of the public is either “very” (56 percent) or “somewhat” concerned (30 percent) about “false or misleading information being communicated about coronavirus.” That sentiment, at least, is not partisan: More than 80 percent of Democrats, Republicans and independents agree.
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