- The Washington Times - Friday, July 29, 2022

Results of a new survey found a sharp rise in support among wealthy, educated, politically independent and science-loving Americans for harassing and threatening public health officials over the lockdown of businesses during COVID-19.

The survey of 1,086 adults was published Friday in JAMA Network Open. It found that the overall share who believed harassing or threatening public health officials due to business closures was justified rose from 20% to 25% and 15% to 21%, respectively, from November 2020 to July and August 2021.

Men who earned less than $35,000 a year and did not “trust science” were the likeliest to support harassing or threatening public health officials, according to the survey.

By August 2021, it found Republicans were 15 percentage points likelier than Democrats to support antagonizing health officials.

However, the survey noted that support for harassing and threatening health officials also “increased significantly” among the highly educated, political independents, the wealthy and those who expressed the most trust in science.

The seven public health researchers who conducted the survey blamed the shift on the “politicization of public health” issues such as masking, social distancing and vaccines since President Biden took office.

“Our findings highlight the need to restore confidence in public health officials as nonpartisan experts who can engage individuals across the political spectrum,” they wrote in the survey.

While media attention focused on former President Donald Trump “flouting public health measures and cultivating a divisive political climate” early in the pandemic, the survey noted that support for attacking health officials still rose eight months into the Biden administration.

That occurred “amidst optimistic projections about vaccination and falling case rates,” it noted.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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