The stark and widening partisan split in perceptions of the coronavirus pandemic is both astonishing and sadly predictable at this point.
A new national survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center finds that 61% of Republicans say that “the worst is behind us” when it comes to the virus, while 38% believe “the worst is still to come.” Just 23% of Democrats say we’re past the worst of the pandemic, while 76% say the worst is still ahead.
The Republican optimism likely reflects the messaging of President Trump and his administration, who continue to try to put a positive spin on progress against the virus, even as case counts surge in the South and West, state health departments report record numbers of new infections and several states pause their reopening plans. “We did slow the spread. We did flatten the curve. We’re in a much better place,” Vice President Mike Pence said Friday in the first White House coronavirus task force briefing in nearly two months.
The partisan divide extends to views about how to respond to the virus, Pew finds: “Republicans are now much less likely to say an additional stimulus package is necessary than they were in early April, while Democrats continue to overwhelmingly say more economic assistance is needed.”
Overall, 71% of Americans say another coronavirus relief package is needed, down from 77% in April. “Notably,” Pew says, “the decrease has come entirely among Republicans, who are now divided over the need for more economic stimulus (51% say it will be necessary, 47% say it will not be needed). In April, two-thirds of Republicans (66%) said an additional stimulus would be needed. Democrats continue to be overwhelmingly supportive of additional economic stimulus (87% say it will be needed, unchanged from April).”
The survey also finds that, while just 25% of Americans say the economy is in excellent or good shape, Republicans are about five times more likely than Democrats to say it is doing well (46% vs. 9%).
As for specific aid measures:
- 88% of Americans support helping homeowners, renters and businesses weather the financial fallout of the virus;
- 76% favor sending more financial aid to state and local governments, though there’s a partisan split on this issue, with 91% of Democrats supporting the idea compared to 58% of Republicans;
- 60% favor extending the $600 in additional federal unemployment benefits beyond the end of July 31, with Democrats (775) far more likely to support the idea than Republicans (39%);
- 53% support a temporary cut in payroll taxes.
The Pew survey was conducted June 16-22 among 4,708 adults. It has an overall margin of sampling error of 1.8 percentage points.