25% of Americans felt threatening health officials was justified amid COVID-19 closures

More adults in the U.S. came to see harassment and threats to public health officials as warranted because of COVID-19 business closures, according to a study published July 29 in JAMA Open Network.

In a survey, 1,086 U.S. adults were asked how much they believed threatening or harassing public health officials for business closures to slow COVID-19 transmission was justified. The share who believed threats were appropriate increased from 20 percent to 25 percent from November 2020 to July and August 2021. The share who believed harassment was appropriate rose from 15 percent to 21 percent in that same timeframe. 

There were increases in negative views of hostility toward public health officials among "higher earners, political independents, those with more education, and those most trusting of science," the study found.

Researchers said the findings show American's increasingly partisan attitudes toward public health officials and conflation of their role with that of politicians. 

"We found that most respondents believing that attacks on public health officials were justified in November 2020 also believed that attacks on politicians were justified. This finding aligns with the general politicization of the pandemic but could also reflect the conflation of public health officials and political leaders or the view that public health officials make inherently political decisions." 

Find the study in full here

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