It was something of a break from his rhetoric on the threat posed by the virus to date, rhetoric which has largely downplayed the risk it poses. Trump has repeatedly suggested that the number of infections in the country is low or getting smaller, suggestions that have been proven incorrect. The number of cases in the United States has doubled since Monday — a tally that only includes positive tests for the virus. It has unquestionably infected far more people who are not yet showing symptoms or who have not yet been tested.
Trump’s line of argument that the virus doesn’t pose a significant risk was amplified by his political allies and his allies on Fox News. Recent polls suggest that it has been effective at convincing many Americans that the coronavirus isn’t something about which they should be concerned. Or, at least, it was effective at convincing many Republicans.
A poll conducted by SurveyMonkey for Axios found that more than half of Republicans see the threat posed by the coronavirus as exaggerated. Only 7 percent thought that the media underestimated the threat. Democrats, by contrast, largely thought that the threat was correctly conveyed or underestimated.
(The SurveyMonkey poll, unlike the others in this article, includes independents who tend to vote with one party or the other in the data for those parties.)
A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that most Republicans were not very worried about they or someone they know being infected with the virus. A majority of Americans indicated that they were very or somewhat concerned about catching the virus or seeing someone they know catch it.
Experts think that perhaps up to half of the country will eventually be infected.
Data from YouGov compiled for the Economist found similar nonchalance on the part of Republicans. About 6 in 10 Republicans expressed low levels of concern about contracting the virus themselves. A third were more worried about it — as were 6 in 10 Democrats.
That difference in views of the risk posed by the virus extended to most considerations of how the threat might be tackled. Republicans, for example, were less likely to indicate that they would avoid large gatherings like sporting events; about half said they were not too worried about heading to such an event.
Democrats were more likely to support forced cancellations of such events. More than half of Republicans didn’t support such measures.
Support for canceling long-distance travel had less support overall, but Republicans again were less likely to approve of such a measure.
Where the two parties agreed was on forced quarantines for those who’d traveled to countries in which the coronavirus was rampant.
By now, though, such measures will probably be ineffective at containing the virus. Community spread — transmission between people who contracted the virus in the United States — has been observed in some places, meaning that new infections will probably continue to increase in the immediate future.
Republicans, though, mostly don’t expect that spread to affect them. More than half are not so worried about disruptions to their daily lives or not concerned at all. About three-quarters of Democrats are somewhat or very concerned about such disruptions.
In Trump’s speech on Wednesday night, we got a better sense of just how broad such disruptions might be. To many of the Republicans who support Trump, the scale of what Trump presents or what comes to fruition in upcoming weeks might come as something of a surprise.