“If we could just focus on important things, instead of playing politics all the time I think that we would be much better served by those in public office, the media, and out there on social media and in public,” Noem says. “This is a time for us to be united, not to continue to find ways to drive people apart. No, I’m not spending any time looking at polls right now” [Lee Strubinger, “National Survey Shows 49 Percent Support for Noem’s COVID Response,” SDPB, 2020.05.01]
Instead of issuing standard baloney (Smithfield is reopening to handle that), Governor Noem and every other governor might actually want to read the poll. Far from “playing politics,” the researchers from Harvard, Rutgers, and Northeastern simply quizzed 186 of Noem’s minions and nearly 23,000 other Americans to see what they are willing to do to keep up the fight against coronavirus. Among the results:
- 92% support canceling major sports and entertainment events.
- 91% support closing K-12 schools.
- In all 50 states, strong majorities (all over 60%; nationwide average above 80%) support asking people to stay at home, canceling events, closing non-essential business, closing schools, limiting restaurants to carry-out, restricting international travel, and restricting domestic travel.
- In all 50 states, Americans are generally more concerned about themselves or their loved ones coming down with covid-19 than about “losing their jobs or suffering financial hardships.”
- 82% support waiting at least two weeks to reopen the economy.
Now 260 million people thinking something is a good idea does not make it a good idea. But understanding the popular will could help governors and other policymakers hear beyond their ideological echo chambers, see beyond the marginal astroturf demonstrations of a few armed liberty-shouters, and maintain the political will to take the tough anti-pandemic measures that huge majorities (if this were an election, we’d say landslide) support. This nationwide survey does not seek to “drive people apart”; quite to the contrary, it provides strong evidence that Americans stand more united behind strong anti-pandemic measures than they have over pretty much anything else over the last few years and will stand with the political leaders who take those measures.
And Governor Noem, if public opinion won’t sway you away from back-to-normalizing too soon, consider:
A key model of the coronavirus pandemic favored by the White House nearly doubled its prediction Monday for how many people will die from the virus in the U.S. by August – primarily because states are reopening too soon.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine is now projecting 134,000 coronavirus-related fatalities, up from a previous prediction of 72,000. Factoring in the scientists’ margin of error, the new prediction ranges from 95,000 to 243,000 [Alice Miranda Ollstein and Caitlin Oprysko, “Models Shift to Predict Dramatically More U.S. Deaths as U.S. States Relax Social Distancing,” Politico, 2020.05.04].
It sounds like the majority if Americans who say job #1 is fighting coronavirus are right, while the small but noisy minority pushing for a swift reopening are dead wrong.
* * *
Speaking more sociologically, the Harvard/Rutgers/Northeastern survey finds 55% of Americans feel their lives have been disrupted “a lot” or “a great deal” by the coronavirus outbreak:
…but young people perceive greater disruption than old people:
…and rich people perceive more disruption than poor people:
73% of respondents said that, in the past 24 hours, they had not been in a room or other enclosed space with anyone other than members of their household:
55% of us (not in Aberdeen, I can tell you, but nationwide) are “very closely” following the recommendation to wear a mask outside the home:
That majority mask usage holds among men and women, young and old, rich and poor, black and white and Asian and Hispanic, Democrat and Independent… and Republicans almost make it:
Yet while lots of people report doing the right things to prevent coronavirus, 48% of Americans think ordinary people like the respondents to this survey aren’t taking the pandemic seriously enough. Only 16% think people are overreacting:
Yet in another demonstration of the same thinking that leads Americans to mistrust Congress but trust their own Congresspeople, only 34% think people in their own neighborhood are not taking coronavirus seriously enough:
Thinking that one’s neighbors are exceptions to one’s belief in the general fallibility of humanity is like thinking governors don’t spend any time looking at polls…