CA voters’ opinions of COVID-19 divided by political support, poll finds

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Californian perceptions of COVID-19 are divided based on support of President Donald Trump’s political positions, according to a poll released by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, or IGS.

Between April 16 and 20, the IGS, in conjunction with the California Initiative for Health Equity and Action, polled 8,800 registered Californian voters on their attitudes toward Trump and COVID-19.

When asked how concerned they are about the pandemic, just 24% of strong Trump supporters indicated strong concern, compared to 57% of strong Trump opponents. A follow-up showed that almost half of those who strongly approve of Trump are not worried about spreading the disease to others, while only 13% of those who strongly disapprove of Trump are not worried.

“In this country, many people look at (the pandemic) from an individual point of view. ‘What is my chance of getting infected?’ and not thinking of what is the chance that they infect others,” said UC Berkeley professor Gérard Roland. “People who don’t believe in the pandemic not only endanger themselves but also endanger others.”

The drastic effect of the political split is also seen with respect to the shelter-in-place policy. The IGS poll asked whether voters are more concerned about the order ending too soon, causing COVID-19 to spread more, or extending for too long, causing economic damage.

Just 22% of Trump supporters are worried that the shelter-in-place order will end too soon, compared to the 78% who are more concerned about the economy suffering. On the other side, 91% of voters who disapprove of Trump indicated they are more concerned about the shelter in place ending too soon.

“Trump supporters are following the President’s lead in pushing to reopen the economy, while those who disapprove of Trump are much more willing to continue shelter-in-place,” said IGS co-director and UC Berkeley professor Eric Schickler in the poll results.

The IGS poll also shows a divide in the perceptions of inequality caused by the disease. As essential workers from the working class and working poor continue to remain at their jobs, they are doing so at a greater risk, according to the poll.

Racial data show that the proportion of African American COVID-19 cases and deaths is larger than the group’s proportion of the population, according to the poll results.

While 70% of Californians agree that COVID-19 is “increasing inequality in the United States,” the perceived degree of inequality varies. In fact, those who do not support Trump were more than four times more likely to feel that Black people are more affected by the pandemic than other groups are, according to the poll results.

Roland said he thinks it is both “cynical and tragic” that it is easier for the privileged, who can work and earn money while staying at home, to call for the economy to restart, as they do not face any immediate danger.

Contact Zoe Chen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @zoe_chen820