By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.
A hot-off-the-presses Washington Post- ABC News poll says the majority of Americans surveyed would prefer policies that slow the spread of COVID-19, even if they come at the expense of restarting the economy.
This poll was taken before the recent riots swept across the country to slam businesses with physical damage as they were just beginning to reopen their doors, according to the Wall Street Journal, Retailers and Restaurants Hit in Protests, Adding to Coronavirus Damage:
Many retailers and restaurants, already crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, are grappling with damage to their properties and new closures following protests sparked by the death of George Floyd that have sometimes turned violent.
From Minneapolis, where Mr. Floyd died while handcuffed and in police custody, to California and Georgia, big and small retailers and restaurants have shut locations in anticipation of violence or are working to rebuild after destruction over the past week.
And poll results show resistance to business interest-driven propaganda that purport to show many Americans (of the US variety) either itching to get back to work for the sheer pleasure of so doing, or beg to be able to resume their jobs driven by desperation and the failure of U.S. politicians to assist their constituents economically – as by contrast virtually every other developed country has done – so they can shelter in place and not have to trade off their health against their basic economic survival.
Source of Results, Partisan Divide
Now, my right-wing friends would emphasize that the poll results reported accord with the policy preferences of the source: ABC News/the Washington Post – a point I should acknowledge up front, which I hereby do, and pass along to you.
More telling I think is the observation that the polling results correspond to the partisan preferences of respondents. As the Washington Post tells the story in Despite widespread economic toll, most Americans still favor controlling outbreak over restarting economy, Post-ABC poll finds:
Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say the coronavirus outbreak has exacted a severe economic toll on their communities, but a majority of a divided country still says controlling the virus’s spread is more important than trying to restart the economy, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The nationwide survey finds that despite the shared disruption of their daily lives since stay-at-home orders began, partisans differ sharply on how the country should move forward.
In the starkest split, 57 percent of Americans overall and 81 percent of Democrats say trying to control the spread of the coronavirus is most important right now, even if it hurts the economy. A far smaller 27 percent of Republicans agree, while 66 percent of them say restarting the economy is more important, even if it hurts efforts to control the virus. Nearly 6 in 10 independents say their priority is trying to control the virus’s spread.
I was struck by the display of common sense reflected in the poll results. Again, relying on the Washington Post’s summary:
Americans are nearly as divided along partisan lines when asked whether they are willing to go to stores, restaurants and other public places “the way you did before the coronavirus outbreak.” Two-thirds of Republicans say they are willing to resume such activities, compared with 4 in 10 independents and fewer than 2 in 10 Democrats.
Overall, 58 percent of Americans say it is “too early” to go to stores, restaurants and other public places the way they did before.
Fearing the Future
And, tellingly, poll respondents fear the future. I suppose I should not be surprised by this result, given the relentless media coverage of the pandemic, reinforced by the large and steadily growing number of infections, meaning many now either have personal experience of COVID-19, or at least know someone who does. Per the Washington Post:
Despite declines in the rate of new infections in some parts of the country, personal fears persist, with 63 percent of Americans overall continuing to worry that they or a family member will catch the coronavirus. That is not far below the 69 percent who two months ago said they were worried.
So, the bottom line: the situation is far from improving, with many if not most fearing for the future. Which perhaps on first glance augurs poorly for Trump’s November chances.
Not so fast!
Yet I don’t rule him out yet, as I know how badly the Democratic Party – particularly its mainstream portion – can misplay a seemingly unassailable winning hand.
Again, relying on the Post’s account:
More broadly, nearly 7 in 10 say they are worried about the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus infections in the fall, a specter that Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned could coincide with the start of flu season. Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to say they are worried about a second wave of infections, 88 percent versus 44 percent.
There is one aspect of the poll results which break well for Trump – and I must confess, leaves me scratching my head, knowing how he assisted by other players in the U.S. political system have botched the U.S. response to COVID – 19, especially as compared to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany, to name some obvious examples off the top of my head who’ve managed a more that competent, modern response to the pandemic. Over to the Washington Post:
Roughly two-thirds of Americans approve of the way their governors have handled the outbreak, including 69 percent of those with a Republican governor and 63 percent in states led by a Democrat. A much smaller 46 percent approve of President Trump’s handling of the outbreak, as reported Sunday.
But the Trump administration receives positive ratings on two aspects of its response, with 57 percent saying it has done an excellent or good job providing financial help to people who need it, and 54 percent saying the same about providing loans to help small businesses weather the effects of the outbreak. In late March, on top of two previous measures, Congress passed and Trump signed a $2.2 trillion aid package that included loans to small businesses, checks of $1,200 to most individual taxpayers and additional assistance to people who had lost their jobs.
The public splits about evenly on how the administration has coordinated federal and state responses to the pandemic, while 51 percent give the Trump administration negative marks for handling efforts to make a coronavirus test universally available. [Jerri-Lynn here: my emphasis.]
So, if I read the poll results correctly, most people surveyed think has managed the pandemic response competently. Which is not what we would think blue partisans – or anyone, for that matter, would say.
There is, to be sure, a partisan split on the issue of deployment of unemployment benefits, according to the Washington Post:
Forty million Americans have applied for unemployment since March, but as states reopen, unemployment benefits have become a flash point. Congressional Democrats and Republicans, along with the White House, remain divided as they debate additional stimulus legislation.
The aid package in late March provided an extra $600 per week to people who lost their jobs during the outbreak, a grant that is scheduled to expire at the end of July. House Democrats passed a bill continuing the extra payments through early 2021, but Trump and key Republicans have opposed this, saying the extension could discourage people from returning to work.
The Post-ABC poll finds that 58 percent of Americans overall support extending the extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits beyond July, while 35 percent say they should end in July as scheduled. But partisans are deeply split, with nearly 6 in 10 Republicans saying extra unemployment benefits should end in July, while nearly 6 in 10 independents and over three-quarters of Democrats say they should be extended.
The Key Takeaways
Two things leap out from these responses (although I confess, I am a bit bothered that the poll only surveyed 1000 responses).
I lay that caveat aside, however, to get to the money points.
First, a majority of U.S respondents surveyed favor measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus over restarting the economy – although there are partisan differences, to be sure.
And second it is far too soon to rule out Trump’s November electoral chances based on his handling of the pandemic so far. Those immersed in their corner of their respective blue bubbles may consider me crazy for raising this point – but I well understand that it takes more than blue partisans alone to settle a U.S. election.
The assessment of Trump’s chances could of course change drastically, especially if U.S. cities continue to burn and the pandemic resists our control. It’s still more than 4 months until the election, and as Lambert emphasizes, that’s a long time in politics. A very long time.