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Are Democrats And Republicans Reacting Differently To Coronavirus? It Depends What You’re Asking Them.

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup. (You can find the latest data on how Americans feel about the novel coronavirus, President Trump’s response to it and more in our new coronavirus polling tracker.)

Poll(s) of the week

Polls suggest that partisanship is affecting Americans’ views of some aspects of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to be skeptical of Trump’s handling of the virus outbreak, for example, and Democrats are more likely than Republicans to express high levels of concern about the virus and its potential impact.

That said, news coverage that casts Americans’ views on the coronavirus as just another example of the nation’s partisan divide may be overstating that case — there is plenty of agreement across party lines when it comes to COVID-19, particularly when it comes to how people say they are behaving:

  • 96 percent of Republicans and 95 percent of Democrats said that they are washing their hands more frequently, according to a Selzer & Company survey conducted last weekend.
  • 93 percent of Democrats and 89 percent of Republicans said they would be “uncomfortable” at a crowded party, per a recent Pew Research Center poll. And 83 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans said they would be uncomfortable eating out in a restaurant right now.
  • 72 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Republicans said that they are satisfied with their state and local governments responses to the coronavirus, according to a new Daily Kos/Civiqs poll.
  • 85 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Republicans oppose churches being exempted from regulations barring large gatherings amid the virus outbreak, according to a survey conducted by the American Enterprise Institute.
  • 85 percent of Republicans and 91 percent of Democrats support giving cash payments to people who make less than $100,000 amid the virus outbreak, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. Republicans and Democrats are also both strongly supportive of aid to small businesses (90 percent of Democrats, 93 percent of Republicans) and somewhat wary of aid to large corporations (38 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of Democrats oppose it),

Overall, self-identified Republicans are much more likely now than a few weeks ago both to say that they view the virus as a serious problem and to be taking social distancing steps. So the partisan divide on these issues that seemed more apparent in early and mid-March is diminishing as Republicans view the virus outbreak more similarly to Democrats and independents.

What explains that shift? It’s likely that both the rising severity of the crisis itself and the decision by President Trump and other prominent conservative voices to stop downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic have affected rank-and-file Republicans.

Of course, some partisan divides remain. By many measures, Democrats are still a bit more concerned about the virus outbreak than Republicans — even if Republicans are increasingly concerned too. For example, 65 percent of Democrats are “extremely concerned” about a coronavirus outbreak in their area, compared to just 21 percent of Republicans, according to the Civiqs survey. But that’s a gap in intensity — basically everyone (91 percent of Republicans, 99 percent of Democrats) said that they were at least a “a little concerned” about an outbreak in their area. This gap might speak to other political beliefs and values, namely that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to trust scientists and science-based arguments, and experts citing scientific evidence are expressing great alarm about the virus). The gap might also be partly explained by lingering effects from the period when Fox News anchors and Trump were downplaying the virus outbreak in a way that prominent liberal leaders did not.

Secondly, questions that include “Trump” or the “federal government” unsurprisingly still result in Democrats taking the negative view and Republicans the positive one. Views on the coronavirus and its impact may not be totally captured by partisanship, but they also aren’t totally separate from those underlying partisan divides.

Third, there are some questions about the virus that don’t necessarily sound partisan, but probably cue partisan responses from respondents. For example, Civiqs asked if U.S. economic sanctions on Iran should remain in place, even as Iran has had a severe outbreak of the coronavirus. Seventy-three percent of Republicans think that the Iran sanctions should remain, compared to 20 percent of Democrats. I suspect that this huge gap is not because voters have particularly well-defined views about the sanctions against Iran. Rather, it’s likely that Democrats are adopting their party’s more conciliatory posture toward Iran and Republicans are adopting their party’s more confrontational approach.

Other polling bites

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden has 61 percent support among Democrats, compared to 36 percent for Sen. Bernie Sanders, according to a new Morning Consult poll.
  • Biden leads Sanders 55 percent to 39 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post survey.
  • In a hypothetical general election matchup between Biden and Trump, the former vice president leads 46 percent to 42 percent, according to a new Morning Consult survey. Biden leads 47-43, per the latest Selzer & Co. poll, 46-40 in a new Reuters-Ipsos survey and 49-40 in a recent Fox News poll.
  • Biden leads Trump by 3 percentage points (48 to 45) in Wisconsin, according to a new Marquette Law School poll.
  • The Fox News survey found that Biden’s support was similar with three different running mates. A Biden ticket with Sen. Kamala Harris led Trump and Vice President Mike Pence 50 percent to 42 percent, Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar led 50-42, and Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren led 52-42.
  • 63 percent of voters support Biden’s pledge to choose a female running mate, according to that Fox News poll. Just 20 percent disapprove.
  • 77 percent of Americans approve of the way that National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci is dealing with the virus outbreak, according to the Fox poll. Americans were similarly satisfied with local officials (75 percent) and the state government (74 percent) where they live, according to the survey. The federal government (55 percent), Pence (55 percent) and Trump (51 percent) were viewed less favorably.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 45.7 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 50 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -4.3 points). At this time last week, 45.3 percent approved and 50.5 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -5.2 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 43.3 percent and a disapproval rating of 52.7 percent, for a net approval rating of -9. 4 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 7.7 percentage points 48.9 percent to 41.2 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 7.5 points (48.7 percent to 41.2 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 6.7 points (47.9 percent to 41.2 percent).

Perry Bacon Jr. is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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