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Some Republicans Have Gotten More Concerned About COVID-19

This month, for the first time since April, our tracker of public opinion around the coronavirus shows that the share of Americans who say they are “very” concerned that they or someone they know will become infected with COVID-19 is higher than the share who say they are “somewhat” concerned.

That rise in concern is understandable, too, when you consider the spike in new coronavirus cases that began in mid-June, especially in the South and West. Just this past week, California, Florida and Texas, along with a handful of other states, saw record spikes in fatalities.

And the fact that the geography of the virus is changing — it’s no longer just a blue-state virus — may mean behaviors and political attitudes are shifting once again. To be clear, there are still deep political divides in how concerned people are about the virus, but there are also some signs that Republicans may be growing more concerned.

For example, as many states started lifting restrictions in April, the share of Republicans who said they were staying at home declined, while the share of Democrats saying they were staying put remained roughly the same. As you can see in the chart below, the share of Republicans who reported staying home as much as possible has ticked up by at least 10 points since the start of July. The latest poll from YouGov/Huffpost to ask this question did, however, also show a decline of 4 percentage points from the previous week, so it’s possible that the changes in Republican behavior could be plateauing — or declining again.

The YouGov/Huffpost polls show increased support for coronavirus-related restrictions, too. In early June, only 23 percent of Americans said there were not enough restrictions where they lived, but in the latest poll, that number had grown by 14 percentage points to 37 percent. That includes an increase of more than 10 points in every region except the Northeast, where the coronavirus’s spread has slowed down. And the share of Republicans who believe there are not enough restrictions, while still relatively small, has doubled from 10 percent in early June to over 20 percent in late July.

These shifts are small, as Republicans still lag behind Democrats on both of these metrics. But it’s significant because it comes at a time when public approval of the government’s handling of the pandemic has fallen to new lows.

According to our tracker, Trump’s approval rating on his response to the crisis has steadily declined since April. That even includes Republicans, whose approval of how he is handling the crisis, while still high at 78 percent, has declined roughly 5 percentage points since mid-June, when cases began spiking.

Recent polls have also shown that Republican governors are getting lower marks on how they’ve handled the pandemic, especially in hard-hit states like Texas, Florida and Arizona.

To be sure, Democrats are still more concerned about the coronavirus than Republicans, but that uptick in our tracker isn’t being driven by just Democrats. Republicans are also showing signs of increased concern around the virus. Some of that may be because as the virus spreads to different parts of the country, more Republicans are coming into contact with it, which may change their perceptions of it. Take what an Ipsos/Axios poll recently found. While only 35 percent of Republicans who had no personal experience with the virus said they are either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about COVID-19, concern over the coronavirus rose to 51 percent among Republicans who knew someone who died from it. Additionally, more than half of Republicans who knew someone who died from the virus said they always wore a mask, while only 38 percent of those who had no personal experience with the virus said they always wore a mask.

And perhaps that nuance underscores something Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux wrote about for FiveThirtyEight earlier this month. Republicans and Democrats are divided on how they see the virus. But they’re less divided on the actual steps they can take to stay safe — whether that’s social distancing, trying to stay home more or wearing masks in public places. It’s possible that partisan opinion on the coronavirus isn’t entirely baked in — yet.

Other Polling Bites

  • 65 percent of American adults said that they supported the protests that have taken place around the country following the police killing of George Floyd, according to a Gallup poll conducted between June and July. Fifty-four percent said that the protests have changed their views on racial justice either “a little” or “a lot,” and 11 percent reported personally participating in a protest about racial justice and equality in the previous month.
  • On Wednesday, the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook testified in an antitrust hearing in the House of Representatives. And according to a recent IBD/TIPP poll, many Americans seem supportive of breaking up these big tech companies. When asked about each company on its own, 60 percent of Americans said they either “somewhat” or “strongly” supported breaking up Google, 58 percent said the same of Amazon, 57 percent said the same of Facebook, and 55 percent said the same of Apple. This is an increase from a year ago, when a previous IBD/TIPP poll found 48 percent of Americans supported breaking up Facebook, 45 percent supported breaking up Amazon, 43 percent supported breaking up Google, and only 36 percent said they supported breaking up Apple.
  • According to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 80 percent of American parents who have a child 11 or younger said their child watches videos on YouTube.
  • Another poll from Pew found that lesser-educated Americans were much more likely to believe the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus outbreak was intentionally planned by powerful people. Forty-eight percent of those with a high school education or less and 38 percent of those with some college education said this theory was either “probably” or “definitely” true, while about a quarter of college graduates and only 15 percent of those with postgraduate education said the same.
  • According to a new Ipsos/Newsy poll, Americans have a variety of concerns about the upcoming elections. Seventy-nine percent were concerned about the impact of COVID-19, 71 percent were concerned about the impact of fake news, 63 percent were concerned about foreign interference, 63 percent were worried about vote suppression, 58 percent were troubled by voter fraud, and 54 percent expressed concern about mail-in-ballot fraud.
  • A new Gallup survey found that 34 percent of Americans identified as politically “conservative” in May and June, down from 40 percent in January and February. And among those with incomes of over $100,000 or between 35 and 54 years old, the share who identified as conservative fell by 11 and 10 percentage points, respectively. Meanwhile, the share of people who said they were “liberal” rose four points, from 22 percent at the start of the year to 26 percent in May and June. Gallup has tracked these numbers since at least 1992.

Trump Approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 40.6 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 55.1 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -14.5 points). At this time last week, 40.3 percent approved and 55.6 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -15.3 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 40.3 percent and a disapproval rating of 56.4 percent, for a net approval rating of -16.1 points.

Generic Ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 8.3 percentage points (49.1 percent to 40.8 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 8.2 points (49.4 percent to 41.2 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 9 points (49 percent to 40 percent).

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.

Dhrumil Mehta was a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight.