There is a wide divergence by party, though. Republicans are much more confident about going to restaurants or barbershops — and even getting on an airplane, something very few people are terribly interested in doing at the moment.
Overall, as we’ve reported, Republicans and Democrats generally share a sense of the need to reengage with normal activity cautiously. But there is also a big partisan divide over how much concern people have about the risk posed by the virus.
That same Quinnipiac poll asked respondents how much concern they had that they or someone they know might contract the coronavirus. Overall, more than 8 in 10 respondents indicated they were at least somewhat concerned about it, including 45 percent who said they were very concerned. By party, though, there was a broad difference in opinions. More than 9 in 10 Democrats said they were at least somewhat concerned, about two-thirds of them very concerned. Among Republicans, only a bit more than half said they were at least somewhat concerned.
That’s a big shift from April, when Quinnipiac’s poll showed three-quarters of Republicans were at least somewhat concerned about someone they know contracting the virus.
The shift recorded by Quinnipiac mirrors the overall trend in concern about the virus. Polling asking about concern that a family member or someone the respondent knows would contract the virus has waned since April, but much more so among Republicans. Among Democrats, the concern hasn’t faded nearly as much.
You might say that on this front, Republicans have flattened the curve while Democrats have plateaued.
It’s interesting to consider that question in comparison with a related one: how concerned respondents are about themselves contracting the virus. Here, too, concern among Republicans has dropped more than concern among Democrats or concern overall.
As you might expect, concern about the virus spreading among the wider group of family members or someone the respondent knows has always been higher than concern respondents have about themselves contracting the virus. Among Republicans, though, the two figures are now at about the same level across polling.
What has powered this change? Certainly, in part, the messaging coming from the White House and conservative media.
Also on Wednesday, the Pew Research Center released a look at how people’s sources of news about the virus correlate to their views of it. Among the sixth of respondents who identify President Trump and the White House coronavirus task force as the source of information they rely upon the most, more than half say the virus has been made into a bigger deal than it should have been — suggesting that they are less likely to be concerned about it as a health risk.
More than 9 in 10 of that group were Republican, making up about 15 percent of the entire respondent pool.
Among those whose main source of election news is Fox News, nearly half agree that the virus threat has been overblown. Among Republicans whose news diet is restricted to right-leaning outlets, 56 percent say the virus has been made into a bigger deal than it should have been.
It may well be the case that the virus poses less of a risk than the most commonly amplified concerns suggest. It may be the case, in other words, that the extent to which most Americans are worried about the virus is too high and that normal activity is safer than most Americans perceive it to be.
It’s worth remembering, though, that since the perception of safety is incumbent upon normal economic activity resuming, it’s important to those who are advocating for a rapid return to normal that doing so be perceived as safe. Those who rely most on the White House for news about the virus and those whose source of election news is conservative media — mostly Republicans — appear to have been so convinced.