• 2024

The world is divided in belief that the threat from COVID-19 was exaggerated

Data shows 45% of survey respondents agree or strongly agree with the statement “I believe the threat from the Coronavirus was exaggerated”, compared to 33% who disagree or strongly disagree, and further 18% who lean in neither direction.


When interrogating the global data, significant differences are found within and between global regions.

Despite having some of the highest reported deaths 1, countries in Eastern and Southeastern Europe are the most likely to agree the threat was exaggerated – Bosnia and Herzegovina (75%), Kosovo (71%), Azerbaijan (68%), Romania (66%) and Georgia (65%) among the most likely.

Previous research indicates that countries across Europe have suffered a significant decrease in perceptions of vaccines as “important” post-pandemic 2, building on the narrative that the seriousness of public health is being de-emphasized across the region.

Previous research also points to negative perceptions of the national government from people in this region, with a majority having experienced their government to be a dividing force during the COVID-19 pandemic 3. With governments spearheading the COVID-19 pandemic response, impaired trust may be impacting public perceptions about the seriousness of the COVID-19 threat.

The Middle East (47%) also show high levels of agreement that the threat from COVID-19 was exaggerated. War torn countries – Afghanistan (62%), Iraq (59%) and Syria (57%), where there is a significant threat to life – are the most likely countries in the region to agree the threat was exaggerated.

Significant differences exist between countries surveyed in Africa, with agreement as high as 59% in Kenya while only 32% in Nigeria. Previous research highlights countries in Africa were huge targets of mis/disinformation campaigns about the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, 3 in 10 (28%) people across 7 countries in Africa (including Kenya and Nigeria) believed rumors the pandemic was a planned event by foreign actors 4, likely influencing levels of perceived exaggeration.

The same research also points to threats that were considered more poignant at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as Malaria and lack of access to food and clear water. Like findings from the Middle East, where other significant threats exist, countries appear more likely to agree the threat from COVID-19 was exaggerated.

Lastly, countries in Western Europe, North America and Latin America are the most likely to disagree that the threat from COVID-19 was exaggerated. Spain (61%), Mexico (57%), UK (49%), Germany (48%), USA (47%), Canada (47%) and Portugal (46%) are the highest. All of these largely populous countries suffered a high death rate and a large volume of confirmed cases 5. With so many people being exposed to the devastating impacts of COVID-19, it is no wonder they are less likely to believe the threat was exaggerated.

1 Coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths worldwide per one million population as of July 13, 2022, by country:
2 Vaccine Confidence Project “State of Vaccine Confidence in the EU, 2022”:
3 Global Listening Project findings on COVID-19 experience and trusted voices during times of crisis (2023):
4 Vaccine Confidence Project, Africa CDC Working Group: Wave 2 reports (2022):
5 Coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths worldwide per one million population as of July 13, 2022, by country:

Kancho Stoychev, president of GIA

“The first global shutdown in human history implemented after the spread of the COVID virus in 2019 still divides the public opinion. Four years later the total number of confirmed cases is seven hundred million or less than 10% of the global population and the total death toll accredited to that disease is seven million or one percent of all registered infected. The official global death rate per thousand statistics do not show peak levels in 2020 and 2021/7.612 and 7.645 respectively/compared to 10 years ago (2011 – 7.818 and 2023 – 7.711). Nevertheless, a majority in most of the developed world still believes that the dangers from COVID-19 are not exaggerated, while in the vast part of the other world a majority believes the opposite. Why? Most probably the answer is related to the power of media and propaganda in the Western world.”

For more information

Kancho Stoychev (in Sofia), +359 88 8611025
Johnny Heald (in London), +44 7973 600308
Dr Munqith Dagher (in Baghdad) +962 7 9967 2229
Steven Kang (in Seoul) +82-2-3702-2550
Antonio Asencio Guillen (in Madrid) +34 608191334
Torbjörn Sjöström (in Stockholm) +46 8 128 196 71


The Gallup International End of Year Survey (EoY) is an annual tradition initiated by and designed under the chairmanship of Dr. George Gallup in 1977. The survey is conducted every year since then. This year it was carried out in 44 countries around the world.

Sample Size and Mode of Fieldwork

A total of 43 922 persons were interviewed globally. In each country a representative sample of around 1000 men and women was interviewed during October – December 2023 either face to face, via telephone or online.
The margin of error for the survey is between +3 – 5% at 95% confidence level.

About Gallup International

Gallup International Association (GIA) is the leading global independent association in market research and polling.

For more than 75 years Gallup International members have demonstrated their expert ability to conduct multi-country surveys on a comparable basis and deliver the highest quality. Our more than 100 members and partners are leading national institutes with a profound local knowledge of research methods and techniques, statistical sources, customs, and culture differences of its own country and carefully selected by the Association Board. With only one member agency per country, members work together daily to share knowledge, new research techniques and tools, as well as to provide the most appropriate solutions to international research projects and service our clients to the best of our abilities.