Medics take a black patient showing COVID-19 symptoms from his apartment to a hospital in Stamford, Connecticut, on April 4. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Medics take a Black patient showing COVID-19 symptoms from his apartment to a hospital in Stamford, Connecticut, on April 4. (John Moore/Getty Images)

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more evidence that Black Americans have been hospitalized with COVID-19 at higher rates than other racial or ethnic groups. But while the CDC has pointed to some possible factors that may be contributing to this pattern – such as work and residential circumstances – the public is divided in its perceptions, particularly along party lines, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted June 4-10.

No consensus in views of reasons for higher rates of COVID-19 hospitalization among Black people in U.S.Most U.S. adults (63%) say a major reason for higher COVID-19 hospitalization rates among Black people is that they are more likely to live in densely populated areas. Smaller but still substantial shares point to Black people being more likely to have other health conditions that put them at risk (52%), that they are less likely to have access to adequate health care (49%) and that they are more likely to work in industries that require contact with the public (45%).

To examine the public’s views of why Black Americans have been hospitalized with COVID-19 at higher rates than other racial or ethnic groups, we surveyed 9,654 U.S. adults from June 4 to 10, 2020. Everyone who took part is a member of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way, nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology. Here are the questions used for this analysis, along with responses, and its methodology.

Black Americans are particularly likely to see some of these explanations as major reasons why Black people have been hospitalized at higher rates than other racial or ethnic groups. For example, about two-thirds of Black adults (66%) say a major reason is that Black people are more likely to have other health conditions that put them at risk, compared with about half or fewer Asian (52%), white (51%) and Hispanic adults (45%). And while a majority of Black (71%) and Asian (61%) Americans say a major reason for the higher hospitalization rates is that Black people have less access to adequate health care, the share falls to 45% among both white and Hispanic Americans.

Public differs by race, ethnicity over the factors it sees as major reasons for higher COVID-19 hospitalization rates among Black Americans

There are also wide partisan gaps in views of the factors contributing to higher hospitalization rates among Black people.

Republicans, Democrats differ on whether health care and work-related disparities are major reasons for higher hospitalization rates among Black AmericansMost Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say major reasons are that Black people have less access to adequate health care (70%) and that they are more likely to work in industries that require contact with the public (61%). About a quarter of Republicans and Republican leaners say the same about each of these potential reasons.

Beyond the specific factors asked about in the Center’s new survey, the public is also divided over a broader question related to the health risks faced by Black Americans during COVID-19: whether their higher hospitalization rates have more to do with people’s choices and lifestyles or circumstances beyond their control.

See also: Black Americans face higher COVID-19 risks, are more hesitant to trust medical scientists, get vaccinated

Wide partisan gaps in views of what’s driving higher COVID-19 hospitalization rates among Black AmericansMore than half of U.S. adults (55%) say the reasons why Black people have been hospitalized at higher rates than other racial or ethnic groups have more to do with circumstances beyond people’s control. Still, a sizable share (44%) says it has more to do with people’s choices and lifestyles.

Two-thirds of Black adults say these reasons have more to do with circumstances beyond people’s control. Narrower majorities of Asian (56%), Hispanic (54%) and white (53%) adults say the same.

Democrats are far more likely than Republicans (73% vs. 34%) to say higher hospitalization rates for Black Americans have more to do with circumstances beyond people’s control. Most Republicans (64%) say it has more to do with people’s choices and lifestyles. White Democrats (79%) are more likely than Black (69%) and Hispanic Democrats (63%) to say the reasons have more to do with circumstances beyond people’s control.

Among white adults, there are also differences in views by age and educational attainment. White adults younger than 30 or with at least a bachelor’s degree are more likely than older and less-educated white adults to say higher hospitalization rates among Black Americans have more to do with circumstances beyond people’s control than with people’s choices and lifestyles. But these differences largely reflect the fact that younger and more educated white adults are more likely to identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party than the Republican Party.

Black adults with at least a bachelor’s degree are also more likely than those with some college or less education to say higher COVID-19 hospitalization rates among Black Americans have more to do with circumstances beyond people’s control (80% vs. 63%). Views on this do not vary significantly by educational attainment among Hispanic adults.

Note: Here are the questions used for this analysis, along with responses, and its methodology.

Juliana Menasce Horowitz  is an associate director of research at Pew Research Center.