Granted, many of the restrictions have only emerged in the past 24 to 48 hours. And granted, 85 percent indicated that they had seen at least some sort of impact, even if only minor. But living in New York, I would have expected to see more people indicating that their lives had been greatly effected.
What wasn’t surprising by now was the partisan split. Six in 10 Democrats reported that their lives had been majorly impacted. Only 4 in 10 Republicans agreed.
Part of that is a function of where Republicans live. States such as New York, California and Washington have seen the majority of confirmed coronavirus cases and, therefore, the most restrictions. They’re also all heavily blue states.
But some component of how partisans view the situation is clearly also a function of their partisanship and their confidence in President Trump.
For example, the Monmouth poll followed several weeks of broad stock-market declines. We’re in an unprecedented moment in which thousands — maybe hundreds of thousands — could be at significant personal risk. Yet three-quarters of Republicans still think the country is on the right track. That may simply be a function of considering a longer time frame than what they expect the virus to affect. It may also be a function of long-term confidence in Trump.
Trump gets better marks on his handling of the pandemic than he does overall. Democrats are significantly more likely to approve of Trump on the coronavirus than they are the rest of his presidency, but they aren’t particularly keen on how Trump’s handling the pandemic. Republicans, by contrast, broadly approve of Trump on both metrics.
As the president and his advisers begin to agitate for lifting the restrictions that have put a hold on the economy, the Monmouth poll suggests that Republicans would probably concur with that plan. Most respondents indicated confidence that state governments had taken appropriate measures to stop the spread of the virus. Democrats and independents, though, were far more likely to say that the federal government hadn’t gone far enough.
Because most of the restrictions on activity have been imposed at the state level, the suggestion has broader approval among non-Republicans for those limits.
Or perhaps, broader disapproval for Trump and what he advocates. Democrats express much more confidence in how federal health officials and state leaders have handled the pandemic than how Trump has. Republicans give Trump and federal health officials equal marks, and see their actions more positively than state officials, the media, Congress or the public broadly.
Republicans continue to express less concern than other partisan groups about the disease the virus causes, covid-19. Only about a quarter of Republicans indicated that they were very concerned about someone in their family becoming seriously ill as a result of contracting the coronavirus.
Republicans also expressed lower likelihood than Democrats to have changed their behavior as a result of the virus. They’re less likely to say they’ve begun working at home, for example, and to say that they’ve reduced the extent to which they go to stores and other businesses.
The most important finding in Monmouth’s poll was that Republicans are broadly confident that there will be only a limited impact from the pandemic. Nearly half expressed a lot of confidence that the impact would be limited; about the same number expressed some confidence in that outcome.
That appears to be the view held by Trump, too, that things will rebound quickly once the threat of the virus passes. He’s said as much, arguing that built-up economic demand will slingshot the economy back into position once the immediate crisis is over.
The problem is that this hypothesis begs the question. The economy might recover quickly if the virus has been contained or tamped down, but attempting to have the economy quickly rebound may reduce the ability to contain or tamp down the virus. If Trump and Republicans more broadly see his recommendations as sufficient, view the virus as less risky, are less likely to say they’ve seen a major impact from the virus and are confident that things can quickly get back to normal — if they think we can rapidly continue down the right path — there may be an impulse to assume that we’re closer to that point than we actually are. That’s a big gamble to take.
A week ago Monday, it seemed as though Trump understood the need to tighten up the economy to better limit the effects of the virus. Now, with more restrictions in place and confirmed cases continuing to climb, he’s giving numerous indications that he thinks that gamble is worth the risk.
It is, after all, the gamble he was taking up until last Monday.