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The Gap Between Democrats And Republicans Is Growing On The Coronavirus Crisis

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, one of the storylines we’ve been following is the growing gap between how Democrats and Republicans view the crisis.

The most obvious divide until this point has been largely political: that is, how Democrats and Republicans view President Trump’s handling of the pandemic. As FiveThirtyEight’s tracker on coronavirus polls1 shows, 82.2 percent of Republicans approve of the president’s response compared with just 12.5 percent of Democrats. But since Trump is arguably the most polarizing president in modern times, it’s not exactly stunning that his approval rating on handling the crisis — 42.7 percent — is more or less identical to his overall job approval rating.2

By comparison, attitudes toward state governors and their handling of the pandemic don’t seem especially partisan — at least at this point. A new poll from SurveyMonkey found that every governor’s approval rating was higher than Trump’s — except for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s, whose rating was on par with the president’s. And 42 governors had an approval rating of 60 percent or higher regardless of their states’ political lean. This includes some Republican governors in blue states — such as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker — and some Democratic governors in red states — like Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.

Still, we are starting to see more pronounced splits between Democrats and Republicans on their attitudes toward the coronavirus crisis. The Axios/Ipsos tracking poll found, for instance, that 78 percent of Democrats felt there was a moderate to large risk in attending in-person gatherings compared with 51 percent of Republicans, a 27-percentage-point gap that has doubled since mid-April. As for when to end social distancing and reopen businesses, a new poll from The Economist/YouGov found that 34 percent of Republicans said it was already “safe right now” compared with only 6 percent of Democrats. And when it comes to attending large political rallies, Republicans were nearly twice as likely as Democrats (38 percent to 22 percent) to say they’d be comfortable attending one sometime in the next six months (or sooner) based on what they know about COVID-19, according to a new poll from Morning Consult.

However, Americans overall continue to be very worried about the U.S. economy in the face of the health crisis: In FiveThirtyEight’s tracker, 87.3 percent said they were very or somewhat concerned — right in line with where the numbers have hovered since March.

As a result, there is still fairly strong support for government intervention to aid different parts of the economy. Data For Progress’s latest tracking poll found that 58 percent of Americans supported more government spending to fight the pandemic, even if this increased the national debt and deficit, compared with 42 percent who said the government had spent either enough or too much already. There was a partisan split on this question, though, with 70 percent of Democrats supporting more government spending compared with 42 percent of Republicans. Specific policy ideas such as giving grants to businesses, direct cash transfers to individuals, and universal paid leave were supported by 60 percent or more of Americans (including majorities of Democrats and Republicans).

However, there is some evidence that Democrats and Republicans are split over how and when the economy should reopen. A new HuffPost/YouGov survey found that 46 percent of Americans overall backed reopening some parts of the economy while maintaining partial restrictions on nonessential activities; 30 percent preferred to keep all nonessential businesses and activities shut down or restricted. About half of Democrats favored keeping nonessential businesses shut down and nonessential activities restricted, while only 16 percent of Republicans agreed. By contrast, Republicans were more likely to support reopening some parts of the economy: 57 percent of Republicans said they wanted reopening with some restrictions compared with 38 percent of Democrats. And 22 percent of Republicans said there shouldn’t be any restrictions on reopening businesses or resuming activities versus just 3 percent of Democrats.

The HuffPost/YouGov survey also found that 47 percent of Americans felt that policies in their area were “about right,” while 24 percent felt there weren’t enough restrictions. Only 21 percent felt that their area had too many restrictions. But, again, there was a partisan split on this question: 37 percent of Republicans said there were too many restrictions compared with 7 percent of Democrats. Still, similar shares of Republicans (52 percent) and Democrats (49 percent) thought local actions were on the mark.

There are also signs that the debate over privacy and public health could turn even more partisan. For the moment, Americans seem willing to sacrifice some privacy to combat the novel coronavirus. When they are forced to choose between protecting people’s medical privacy and preventing the spread of COVID-19, a new Gallup survey found that 61 percent of Americans would choose limiting the spread of the disease — even if doing so meant revealing people’s sensitive medical information. But here, too, there were some partisan differences: 57 percent of Republicans prioritized protecting medical privacy compared with 42 of independents and just 23 percent of Democrats. This could be an increasingly controversial topic in the coming weeks, though — tellingly, members of Congress from both parties have already proposed legislation aimed at protecting patient privacy and security.

Other polling bites

  • Morning Consult found that voters increasingly viewed Trump instead of former President Barack Obama as responsible for the state of the economy. Overall, 63 percent of respondents said Trump was responsible for current economic conditions, while 16 percent said Obama was responsible. This amounts to a small but notable change from August 2019, when 55 percent said Trump and 27 percent said Obama. Democrats appear to be driving this shift, too. In 2019, just 49 percent of Democrats said Trump was responsible for the then-strong economy, but in the latest survey, 70 percent said Trump was responsible.
  • Gallup found that 31 percent of Americans approved of the job Congress was doing, the highest its approval rating has been since September 2009 and the second straight month it has risen. The approval bump comes in the wake of four coronavirus-related bills that Congress has passed, including a $2.2 trillion aid package in March that nearly 8 in 10 Americans support.
  • New polling from Morning Consult found that 48 percent of Americans felt China was mostly responsible for the current state of the pandemic because it originated there, while 38 percent felt the U.S. was mostly at fault because of its response to the virus. But the responses broke by party line, representing another area of partisan disagreement over the coronavirus. While 79 percent of Republicans blamed China, compared with 10 percent who blamed the U.S., just 26 percent of Democrats blamed China, compared with 61 percent who blamed the U.S.
  • Left-leaning firm Civiqs offered some hopeful electoral news for Democrats in Georgia. The firm found former Vice President Joe Biden in a close race with Trump, leading 48 percent to 47 percent. In the state’s regularly scheduled Senate race, the pollster also found Republican Sen. David Perdue only narrowly ahead — or slightly behind — the three main Democratic contenders. Meanwhile, in the special election Senate race, the pollster found appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler well behind the principal Democratic contenders in a hypothetical runoff, while GOP Rep. Doug Collins ran neck and neck with the Democrats.
  • Alabama Republicans will choose their nominee for the state’s U.S. Senate race in a July 14 primary runoff, and a new survey from GOP pollster Cygnal found former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville up 55 percent to 32 percent over former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions held this Senate seat before joining Trump’s cabinet in 2017.
  • The winner of Utah’s GOP gubernatorial primary on June 30 will likely become the state’s next governor, and a new poll of the Republican contest from 2 News found Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox ahead 39 percent to 32 percent over former Gov. Jon Huntsman. Former state House Speaker Greg Hughes received 23 percent, while former Utah Republican Party chairman Thomas Wright had 6 percent.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 42.8 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 53.5 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -10.7 points). At this time last week, 43.6 percent approved and 52.0 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -8.4 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 43.7 percent and a disapproval rating of 52.1 percent, for a net approval rating of -8.4 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 7.9 percentage points (48.2 percent to 40.3 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 7.7 points (48.9 percent to 41.2 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 8.0 points (48.4 percent to 40.4 percent).


  1. Numbers are current as of 6 p.m. on Thursday.

  2. Numbers are current as of 6 p.m. on Thursday.

Geoffrey Skelley is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.