For instance, 88% of Americans know the coronavirus can be spread by touching surfaces where virus droplets land and that the droplets can remain contagious for a few hours or up to several days. There is no difference in awareness about how the coronavirus spreads between Democrats (88%), Republicans (87%) and independents (87%), likely because this information has remained outside contentious political discourse.

Yet, consensus on the basic facts crumbles when scientific knowledge is politicized. The gap in misperceptions over the lethality of the coronavirus is a case in point. While more Americans realized the coronavirus was deadlier than the seasonal flu in mid-April (67%) compared with late March (60%), this trend toward greater knowledge did not hold among Republicans.