By: Mark Glennon*

Americans have been “blinded from science,” according to a recent research report about their understanding of COVID-19. And it’s not about the controversial aspects like treatments and lockdown policies. It’s about ignorance of fundamental, undisputed facts on who is at risk.

A leading financial firm, Franklin Templeton, figured that people’s behavioral response to the pandemic will play a crucial role in shaping the economic recovery, so they teamed up with Gallup, the polling outfit, to find out what people know and don’t know.

“These results are nothing short of stunning,” concluded the firm. “Six months into this pandemic, Americans still dramatically misunderstand the risk of dying from COVID-19.”

That’s no exaggeration, and the implications go far beyond the economic behavior Franklin Templeton was interested in.

Here is what they found:

First, the Franklin Templeton-Gallup survey found that the general population has little understanding how heavily the pandemic is focused on the older population. It is not broad-based. From the report:

  • On average, Americans believe that people aged 55 and older account for just over half of total COVID-19 deaths; the actual figure is 92%.
  • Americans believe that people aged 44 and younger account for about 30% of total deaths; the actual figure is 2.7%.
  • Americans overestimate the risk of death from COVID-19 for people aged 24 and younger by a factor of 50; and they think the risk for people aged 65 and older is half of what it actually is (40% vs 80%).

Here are the full results in chart form:

Source: They Blinded Us from Science, Franklin Templeton Report

In Illinois, too, coronavirus deaths are very heavily concentrated in the older population. The Franklin-Gallup survey about perceptions is not broken down by state, but we do have the underlying facts for Illinois.

The state’s data say 82% of COVID-19 death victims are 60 or older. Most Illinoisans undoubtedly don’t know that because only broad averages are normally reported. Many critics of lockdown policies, including Wirepoints, have long argued against one-size-fits all policies. Efforts, instead, should be more focused on those truly at risk – the elderly and those with comorbidities. We update our coronavirus data report every day that includes deaths by age group.

The lower your age the greater the ignorance:

What’s perhaps most striking from the survey is the connection between age of the respondents and their misconception about the virus. The younger you are, the more likely it is that you don’t understand.

“The discrepancy with the actual mortality data is staggering: for people aged 18–24, the share of those worried about serious health consequences is 400 times higher than the share of total COVID deaths; for those age 25–34 it is 90 times higher,” says the report. “The chart below truly is worth a thousand words:”

Source: They Blinded Us from Science, Franklin Templeton Report

The only good news there is that folks 65 and older are much more aware of the heightened risk for their own age group.

Social media and partisanship blamed:

The report blames the ignorance on two major culprits: the quality of information and the extreme politicization of the COVID-19 debate:

  • People who get their information predominantly from social media have the most erroneous and distorted perception of risk.
  • Those who identify as Democrats tend to mistakenly overstate the risk of death from COVID-19 for younger people much more than Republicans.

Sadly, that comes as no surprise, according to the report:

Fear and anger are the most reliable drivers of engagement; scary tales of young victims of the pandemic, intimating that we are all at risk of dying, quickly go viral; so do stories that blame everything on your political adversaries. Both social and traditional media have been churning out both types of narratives in order to generate more clicks and increase their audience.

The report found significant difference across partisan lines, though it did not include much neevidence:

According to our study, political affiliation is as powerful as age in predicting whether someone would be likely to eat at a restaurant indoors; Democrats have roughly the same willingness to eat in a restaurant at 25% capacity as Republicans do in a restaurant at full capacity. Individual risk from COVID-19 depends on age and health, but perceived risk depends on one’s politics— and it’s perceived risk that drives behavior. Conversely, previous Gallup research has found that Republicans have been less likely to accept public health guidelines like wearing a mask, regardless of the local rate of infection—again evidence that partisanship plays an important role.

Implications:

Whatever the causes, what’s clear from the study is that most Americans don’t understand COVID-19’s age discrimination. Risks are concentrated far more heavily on the older population than people think, especially young people.

One consequence for business people is that consumers are prepared to pay up for more security from the virus, according to the report. For example, it says, air travelers are willing to pay more to get an empty seat next to them.

But the implications go far beyond business considerations, as the report itself nicely concludes:

From a public interest perspective, we believe the top priority should be better information and a less partisan, more fact-based public debate. It is shocking that six months into the pandemic so many people still ignore the basic mortality statistics, with perceived risk driven by political leanings rather than individual age and health. Misperceptions of risk distort both individual behavior and policy decisions.

The fact that a large share of the population overestimates the COVID-19 danger to the young will make a targeted public health response more difficult to agree on. We think it is also likely to delay the recovery, causing a deeper and prolonged recession.

Amen to that.

*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.

Our additional articles and research on COVID-19 are here.

68 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Edward S.
1 month ago

The salient issue in regards to the grossly higher percentage of deaths among seniors, is that the younger age group will, most likely, NOT die from it!! However, they do represent a much higher percentage of asymptomatic and milder cases. This effectually makes them very efficient stealth carriers/transmitters, thus exponentially perpetuating the spread. That being the case, then it is imperative that ALL potential cases be discovered and treated. This would mandate blanket, cross age-barrier, screening. Simply because younger aged individuals don’t die, doesn’t divorce them from the equation. They represent a lethal threat to those who ARE at greater… Read more »

Vb
1 month ago

Can you fix the spelling errors?

Jim
30 days ago
Reply to  Vb

Is that the best you can come up with numnuts?

AWBT
1 month ago

Fear of Health Consequences vs. Actual Mortality is so very biased. You have chosen wording that is not even similar. Fearing health consequences is not the same as death. People may fever sickness, hospitalization, economic stress from being sick and out of work, severe illness, and long term health consequences. None of these are DEATH. That graph is useless. You are reporting in the very way that you are judging others for doing. Good try.

random observer
1 month ago

One thing that has troubled me in the torrent of official and unofficial information has been the glossing over of key information.

In the discussion of risk factors like diabetes or high blood pressure, I was interested in knowing whether the control of these things by medication makes any difference. If your BP is normal because it’s controlled, you’d think that means its normal, not high. OTOH, it’s only normal because of drugs. So is it a risk factor or not?

Ditto blood sugar.

Not once did I stumble on any official comment on how to interpret these things.

random observer
1 month ago

Your bar graph #1 appears to show that 92% of COVID deaths are people over 55, and 80% over 65. That is to say, 80% of people who have died of COVID were over 65. This line says: “Americans overestimate the risk of death from COVID-19 for people aged 24 and younger by a factor of 50; and they think the risk for people aged 65 and older is half of what it actually is (40% vs 80%).” That is to say, the risk of death for a person 65 or older who catches COVID is 80%. If you catch… Read more »

Paul J
1 month ago

The way the results of the study are stated make it sound as if the risk of death for those 55 and older who contract the virus is 80%. “Americans overestimate the risk of death from COVID-19 for people aged 24 and younger by a factor of 50; and they think the risk for people aged 65 and older is half of what it actually is (40% vs 80%). I think this is worth addressing. I don’t believe many people frame their thoughts about this in the way Franklin Templeton approached it. When they, as evidenced above, state that the… Read more »

1 month ago

Anytime you see a person outdoors, wearing a mask, you identified a source of all the misinformation. If that person claims she or he is wearing it to protect you – you have identified a source of misinfomration for the next 100 years. No matter what chance regarding this or the next – that person is guaranteed to remain the same close-minded rumor-mill.

TerraFirma
1 month ago

The only reason I wear a mask in public is to avoid having my teeth bashed in. I wear it as a protective shield from violence from a combustible idiot.

Thomas Giebel
1 month ago

I am stunned to read that, “People who get their information predominantly from social media have the most erroneous and distorted perception of risk.” If that were true it would only be a result of social media platforms banning sites reporting accurate information. The most misinformed are authoritarian types who accept government and media narratives without any discernment whatsoever. Most people would be stunned to know that COVID-19 tests do not actually test for a COVID-19 virus only for the presence of antibodies! So antibodies resulting from a cut would result in a false positive outcome in favor of COVID-19.… Read more »

Travis
1 month ago
Reply to  Thomas Giebel

Well, that’s was terribly wrong information. Go find some good sources to back up what you just wrote please.

random observer
1 month ago
Reply to  Thomas Giebel

How do you get antibodies for COVID from ” a cut”? What did I miss here?

gdmudder@yahoo.com
1 month ago

I didn’t know the actual numbers, but living life without fear has been my goal throughout the scamdemic. These numbers won’t surprise a lot of people.

Rita A. Bates
1 month ago

Isn’t this age/risk scenario the same with every single flu outbreak we have ever had? It is ALWAYS the older population that are high risk. ALWAYS. And not even just flu, but any disease. Older people have weaker immune systems and weaker health in general. Why is this suddenly a big surprise for some people?

Weege
1 month ago
Reply to  Rita A. Bates

Nope, false. Someone under the age of 55 is significantly more likely to die from than Flu than covid. Do some research before you just say things.

The Truth Hurts
1 month ago
Reply to  Weege

Not entirely true. Someone under the age of 55 but older than 24 is more likely to die from Covid rather than flu. People under the age of 25 are more likely to die from flu rather than covid.

Keep in mind that it’s not that Covid is dangerous to 25-54 year olds, it’s that the flu is also not dangerous and less dangerous than Covid to this same cohort. People under the age of 65 are more likely to die from an unintentional injury rather than Covid.

https://freopp.org/estimating-the-risk-of-death-from-covid-19-vs-influenza-or-pneumonia-by-age-630aea3ae5a9

1 month ago

Note that 30% of the population is over 55.

Anon 2020
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred S

Would have been even greater than 30%.

Jack Klugman
1 month ago

Our question asks about fear of serious health consequences, not fear of death, but the evidence to-date indicates that the two follow a very similar age distribution; indeed the CDC has clearly stated on its website that “Among adults, the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at the highest risk.” Recent concerns of possible adverse long-term consequences are by necessity speculative, since we obviously do not have long-term data yet.A margin of sampling error has not been calculated as this study relies upon an opt-in, web-based sample. Way back in April we knew An… Read more »

1 month ago
Reply to  Jack Klugman

It has been noted that people from different fields react differently to any event, and that includes timing and scale of urgency. The article makes it apparent that clear, authoritative channels of communications are purposefully overloaded by politics. I am not going to endorse anything, suggested by anyone – doctors, the president, my governor – as there is no one ever being identified and punished for misinformation. The only sensible thing to do is wait until the channels are unclogged, and those who are quilty of politicising this even are convicted and sitting in prison.

drew45.8
1 month ago

Who and where are these people who are so unaware and uninformed? Are they so turned inwards that they don’t watch the news or read anything online? Everywhere you look: “COVID effects the elderly the most and the worst.” “Children at lowest risk from getting it or dying from it”. This has been out there since March. The situation in NY/NJ was the top story for well over a month. The nursing home fiascos, the hospitals, ventilators, all of it. It was nearly the only thing on the news.

The Truth Hurts
1 month ago
Reply to  drew45.8

Who? They are people that get their news from instagram, facebook and twitter. The nightly news is from talk show host that spend all of their time bashing Trump. The younger ones don’t even watch those types of “news” programs as TV is outdated to them. Netflix and YouTube only. They only see information in picture form and/or with limited characters. They only get news from other people who think exactly like them.

Where? They are everywhere. They are the majority. They are too busy or lazy to scratch the surface of any news story.

Joe Blow
1 month ago
Reply to  drew45.8

go to reddit… its insanity there

Steve Crowders
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

stay away from the coronavirus subreddit. Covid19 subreddit is science based with good mods. But yes. Reddit is a liberal cesspool for the most part.

Tracey
1 month ago
Reply to  drew45.8

Places like Facebook remove any postings that do not follow the liberal narrative. If you post a video of a doctor showing these kinds of results it will be removed.

1 month ago
Reply to  drew45.8

True, but there are often the emotional stories of “young healthy people” featured which amps up the irrational fear factor.

fj hoenemyer
1 month ago

I am reminded how when soviet citizens were shown American grocery stores they refused to believe that such things , such abundance , existed. The American people are quite obviously similarly misinformed and IMHO that is for a purpose. And it is not laziness or stupidity in the media , although there is a surfeit of both in that lot

Richard
1 month ago

Watching people, it seems that a big percentage of the population still believes in the miasma theory of disease.

Raymond
1 month ago

Seems to me the pundits don’t adequately appreciate our deeply seated fears about death. Also, the fact we’re talking about a situation that’s fluid, including new discoveries surfacing on regular basis. And even if I’m told how the odds be in my favor, the language suggests all I’m really making is something on the order of a gambler’s proposition. Why can’t experts understand their own role in contributing to the uncertainty and lack of trust on the part of the public? They’re who we’ve been looking to all along, and why no one can confidently make up their own mind.… Read more »

Richie Rich
1 month ago
Reply to  Raymond

A “gambler’s proposition?” It has been statistically proven that kids under 18 are more likely to die in a car accident. You make decisions about risk every day of your life… The point of the article is that most people are CLUELESS about the actual odds (vs. those hyped my drive-by journalists).

Ben Schmitt
1 month ago
Reply to  Richie Rich

I don’t think the commentator understands the article at all.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ben Schmitt
Joey Zamboni
1 month ago
Reply to  Richie Rich

This helps me to understand the “real fear” people have about this…

I used to dismiss their fear as irrational…

Now I see it as they are misinformed or mislead into believing they have a much higher chance of dying…

Their “fear” is real, even tho their reasons for it are not…

This is the danger of limiting your information to only one source…

Joe Blow
1 month ago
Reply to  Raymond

a study came out the other day saying that asymptomatic people are nearly a 0% risk of spreading the virus… you know, just like every single other virus, ever

https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-2671

here’s a diagram if you don’t want to bother reading or understand the entire report

comment image

AWBT
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

There is so much we don’t know because people don’t get tested when sick. And symptomatic can spread. I know 2 families this happened to, were infected by someone asymptomatic. Not to mention you can be asymptomatic with strep throat and infect those around you. (Had a friend with a daughter that was asymptomatic and the other children were repeatedly getting strep. They finally tested the entire family and discovered the one child that NEVER had symptoms was a carrier. She had to be treated. Once she was in the clear, the cycle of strep finally stopped.) The same is… Read more »

The Truth Hurts
1 month ago
Reply to  AWBT

Actually the WHO has stated asymptomatic spreading of SARS-CoV2 is extremely rare. What you offered up is anecdotal evidence about the spread of streptococcus pneumoniae. You were provided with a clinical paper and you resorted to story. It’s that type of “science” that has caused us to unnecessarily shut down our economy. Sure there is a lot for us to learn about this virus but decisions should be made on sound science not “what if” stories. Data not stories. The data Joe Blow provided should be celebrated. It means that if we isolate those with symptoms we can dramatically reduce… Read more »

Jweiland
1 month ago

Mark, thank you for getting this information out. Instead of following the science, most people are following the dictates of irrational fears.

Andrew Szakmary
1 month ago

The flaw in this article, and in a lot of the comments, is the conflating of adverse long term health consequences and death. It is true that only a vanishingly small percentage of those under 40 who contract COVID die. But what percentage of these folks will have serious health issues, like heart damage or diminished lung capacity, for the rest of their lives as a direct consequence of contracting the disease? Again, probably not a huge percentage, but by no means a vanishingly small percentage either, and we simply don’t know for sure at the present time. I can… Read more »

The Truth Hurts
1 month ago

“But what percentage of these folks will have serious health issues, like heart damage or diminished lung capacity” So far we don’t know of any statistically significant long term health impact from this virus in young people. We may find definitive proof later but at this point we don’t know or have any data. The world has decided to shut down because of the fear of the unknown. For some people that are unwilling to accept any risk this makes sense. For others this seems premature and not based on science. It seems to me that the burden of proof… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by The Truth Hurts
Bradiplata
1 month ago

Verses the number of people who have died from committing suicide, didn’t go to emergency rooms for strokes or heart attacks out of fear, or who will die of cancer because they couldn’t get biopsies done? The deaths in my examples are spread a little more evenly than covid.

HarvardR
1 month ago

The “serious health issues”: is not unique to COVID, old school influenza also has serious health issues. For example:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3591813/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/symptoms-causes/syc-20351719

Search “influenza complications”.

joe blow
1 month ago

0.9 % of the covid deaths are to those under 35 years of age – LESS THAN 1%!!!! They aren’t affected don’t you get it!!! You don’t shut everything down for that you idiot. Those susceptible are to be cautious and or quarantined, not healthy people.

PensionActuary1058
1 month ago

As a 25 year old, I am embarrassed for my age cohort. Then again, my age cohort is all of the Bernie bros…

Andrew
1 month ago

I have work through this all sense they shut down working 12 hours days went to the store Wal- mart an other place I don’t wear a mask any where been a round lots of people I’ve not been sick once sorry to the ones that has past but I just don’t believe what any ones says any more about COVID-19 I have my own Thoughts of it all

True believer
1 month ago

The increased cases are due to riots, looting and burning started at the insistence of the national Democratic Party to elect senile Joe and his blm chosen radical vp.

David F
1 month ago

It’s not about the risks, it’s about who should have to be forced to care.
Kids a little are risk, send them to schools if your in a high zone take care of yourself!
We’ve unweave the fabric of society and all that entails, we doing this for FLU season next?

Freddy
1 month ago

Many questions. How many younger people contracting Covid were vaping or were vapers? Remember what the flavors were doing to their lungs and how many died or needed lung transplants and are now very susceptible in contracting Covid? How many of the younger people were protesting/rioting/looting or just assembling in large groups as kids tend to do? How many false positives due to improper testing procedures or faulty test kits? Lots of money to be made in positive tests but no money in negative ones. Reports say at least 55% died in nursing homes from Covid in Illinois but how… Read more »

Mark Blade
1 month ago

Not sure what the point is of this article. Plenty of sick young people in our armed forces right now. Sure, this disease is more deadly to older folks, but it can still do damage to young healthy people. Thank you China!

The Truth Hurts
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Blade

The point of the article is that people are over estimating their risk of death. That’s a problem when you scare 70% of the population into believing they may die. Young people get sick and die from the flu and various other illnesses but we don’t frighten people to think death is imminent. What damage is done to young people relative to the flu? When I hear people talk about long term damage to young people for a disease that we have only known about for six months I become very skeptical. Sure anecdotal data is available but nothing that… Read more »

Dave
1 month ago

The overall death rate in the 15-24 age group is small, but if one dies it is 98.7% likely it was from something other than Covid.

1 month ago

To be fair, if they asked people what they thought the %ages of deaths by age were in other years, without COVID, they would likely get that wrong in the same way. People have a bad feel for this stuff.

1 month ago

Oh, and by the way, the percentage of deaths by age for all causes aren’t that much different from COVID’s mortality profile. It’s just that our death levels overall are higher with COVID.

Joey Zamboni
1 month ago

—“The younger you are, the more likely it is that you don’t understand.”—

—“People who get their information predominantly from social media have the most erroneous and distorted perception of risk.”—

That in a nutshell is why there is so much “fearfulness”…

When you get your news from only one source, you are limiting your knowledge drastically…

1 month ago

so this data would say; play baseball games at Wrigley and Guaranteed Rate. If you are 55 or over, you would be prohibited from attending. Maybe play in the day since the virus survives only seconds in sunlight.

Aaron
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Carter

Or they could play at Walmart or the liquor store or at the pot store. Or maybe just play on the street while chanting and calling everyone racist. No worries there.

The Truth Hurts
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Carter

That would be age discriminatory. If we followed that logic we would prohibit black and hispanic people as well. How about we handle this like foul balls. We post a sign that states “Life is filled with risks. Other fans may have a virus that could transmit to other fans. While this has been going on since the dawn of man we just thought we would offer up this reminder. We are not responsible for fans getting the common cold, newer versions of the cold, influenza, strep throat, sinus infections, or other transmittable diseases from other fans. Enter at your… Read more »

Hank Scorpio
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Carter

Or we stop treating people like children and let the 55+ crowd take whatever risk they want…

Aaron
1 month ago
Reply to  Hank Scorpio

*applause* But that would require the exercise of individual liberty, which Americans in this day and age cannot comprehend. Also, this is what happens when government controls healthcare.

Maximus
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Carter

The disease is lethal and is a global pandemic and very new. There are a lot of factors and a lot of unknowns and we still don’t know the long term effects on the body for those who get the disease but are asymptomatic. The Center for Disease Control has recommended mask wearing and social distancing to try and mitigate the spread and this isn’t being done to hurt the economy, it’s being done to try and eradicate the disease and prevent it from doing more harm to us. Trying to allow the disease to run rampant in one category… Read more »

Terry Ott
1 month ago
Reply to  Maximus

per Maximus — “Trying to allow the disease to run rampant in one category of people (young people?) and prevent it from spreading to another category of people (old people?) isn’t a winning solution.” You say it ISN’T, and I say it IS “a winning solution”, if you change a few words. No one is “trying to allow (it) to run rampant” in ANY “category of people”. Some are convinced that for younger people without preexisting risk condition(s) the illness can be managed and monitored medically and routinely as it runs its normal course. Younger people need not live their… Read more »

Hank Scorpio
1 month ago

Wait until a vaccine is ‘approved’ and half of the country refuses to take it. There’s a big difference between taking a vaccine that has been around for decades and one that has been rushed to market. What will be the political response to those people?

Illinois Entrepreneur
1 month ago
Reply to  Hank Scorpio

The New York Times had a brief the other day (I know, but bear with me) that we are probably much closer to herd immunity than originally thought. Scientists originally thought that we would need to approach about 75% infected before experiencing. Now, they believe that once we reach 45 – 50% we will reach herd immunity, thus allowing things to go somewhat back to normal. Indications are that in some areas, like New York, there already has been 30 – 40% infected, so we are not far in areas like that. Ultimately I think even if only half the… Read more »

Hank Scorpio
1 month ago

True, I had thought about those immunity percentages. But with so many people being legitimately mentally ill these days, I can absolutely see vicious demands that EVERYONE be FORCED to participate. Just look at how people fight over mask-wearing…

Maximus
1 month ago
Reply to  chumpchange

That website rates at 48 out of 180 with the world press freedom ranking. It’s not that trustworthy unfortunately.
https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/conservative-review/

chumpchange
1 month ago
Reply to  Maximus

Riiiight. . . fact checker.

Mike
1 month ago

How about a Daily WirePoints COVID-19 Truth tweet.

Only one point per day.

Short and sweet.

With a URL to the source document.

The tweet can be cross-posted on Facebook and the website.

One small step to counter the daily barrage of fear mongering.