By Jim EllisJune 30, 2020 — The Pew Research Center yesterday released the results of their national poll about how the public is viewing the COVID-19 response, which enables us to put the data in a political context. The polling results contain some good news for both presidential candidates and the respective major party leaders who are attempting to craft national campaign agendas in unique times.
According to the Pew methodology report on page six of their synopsis, the survey was conducted from June 4-10 via “the American Trends Panel (ATP), as created by the Pew Research Center, [which] is a nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults. Panelists participate via self-administered web surveys.” The ATP has a total of 19,718 adults of which 11,013 were sampled for this poll and 9,654 responded.
The sampling error is reported to be plus or minus 1.6 percentage points, but Asians (8.2), Blacks (5.3), and Hispanics (4.5) were well over the average. While the pollsters show all segments falling between a plus or minus 1.8 and 8.2 error factor, they still list the overall sample rate (1.6 percent) as falling below even the low number on racial segmentation.
The best news for former vice president Joe Biden is that the Trump Administration scores the lowest rating relating to whom and what the respondents trust most about coronavirus information. The administration is believed either almost all (eight percent), most (21 percent), or some of the time (29 percent) by a combined 58 percent of the respondents. In contrast, the Center for Disease Control is the most reliable cited source with a combined 88 percent rating (22 percent almost all; 42 percent most; 24 percent some of the time).
With President Trump and his team scoring low on the believability scale, the better news for his campaign is that fewer people are following the disease coverage closely. Furthermore, it is clear that large segments don’t know what to believe from news accounts of the disease’s effects.
From a high in April of 57 percent who responded that they were following the COVID-19 news “very closely,” the early June numbers see that number dropping to 39 percent. This suggests that other issues, possibly returning to economic stability, may surpass the disease as a voting factor should this trend continue.
Partisanship, naturally, is driving many of the responses. The Trump believability number, for example, is pushed downward because only nine percent of Democrats and Lean Democrats answered affirmatively. This compares to 54 percent of Republicans and Lean Republicans who say they generally believe the Administration statement of facts about the virus. The fact, however, that only 54 percent of the latter category responds positively is much more of a detrimental factor to the Trump campaign than performing so poorly among Democrats.
On the other end of the scale, those who believe the effects of the disease have been exaggerated have jumped from 29 to 38 percent. This is led by Republicans and Lean Republicans of whom 63 percent responded in this manner, well up from 47 percent of this group who said so in April.
One area where agreement is present between the Republican and Democratic samples is in relation to seeing partisanship in the news coverage. A total of 43 percent of Republican/Lean Republicans see ‘more partisan viewpoints in the news about the outbreak,” while 41 percent of Democrat/Lean Democrats share that observation. Saying they believe it is ‘harder to identify what is true and what is false” about the virus, 47 percent of Republicans/Lean R agree, and so do 31 percent of Democrats/Lean D respondents.
Many rumors of a COVID-19 conspiracy have been floating, and the Pew poll tests such a concept. Unfortunately, we don’t have a clear response because the type of conspiracy wasn’t identified. The question asked simply if the respondent “had heard about the conspiracy theory that powerful people planned the coronavirus outbreak.”
The flaw comes in not identifying the “powerful people” as to whether they are political, domestic, foreign, conservative or liberal, all of which would have changed the outcome. Still, 71 percent answered that they had heard “a lot” or “a little” about the suggested conspiracy.
Another flaw is detected because the pollsters didn’t segment for a pure Independent cell. All respondents are grouped as either Republican/Lean R or Democrat/Lean D, giving no option for those who may be legitimately independent or undecided about the political direction in which they may turn later this year.
How the disease is viewed later in this cycle will certainly have an effect upon the outcome of the election. Like the perception of the disease itself, the ancillary questions surrounding how it might help influence the political climate as we continue to move through the election cycle also remains unclear.