Republican and Democrat voters collectively held their breath whilst President Trump battled COVID-19.

While consumers expressed concern over the President’s physical wellbeing, they impatiently awaited the aftermath and what it would mean on the campaign trail for the election.

Despite the President’s recovery, questions still linger – especially about COVID-19.

In a country already deeply divided, this pandemic has fueled tensions even further.

For many Americans, basic public health measures are clashing with perceived citizens’ rights. Wearing a mask is akin to making a political statement.

But what do consumers really think, and – importantly – are the party lines as divided as the media would suggest? How does this bode for the election?

Using our COVID-19 research in the U.S., we’ll explore how different voting parties feel about the impacts of the pandemic – and what this means for November 3rd.

There’s a clear divide in COVID-19 concerns between political parties. 

Dr. Fauci, the CDC and World Health Organization have stressed the impact COVID-19 has had  on the world, but no one can agree on the actual outcome.

Chart showing democrats are particularly concerned over the COVID-19 situation in the U.S.

Democrats have always been more concerned with the potential impact of COVID than their Republican counterparts.

No more than a quarter of Republicans were ever extremely concerned about the impact of COVID in the U.S.

Over 4 in 10 Democrats reported extreme concern most recently in July – compared to only 15% of Republicans – and no less than a third ever shared this sentiment across research waves. 

Democrat COVID-19 concerns increased 25% between March and July, while Republican concerns declined by 10%. These changes in concern are telling. The President’s rhetoric has worked on his voter base, when in reality voters should now be more concerned about the virus.  

Voters are divided on the U.S. government’s handling of the outbreak.

The U.S.’s COVID-19 response has been one of the hot topics of the presidential debates. And it’s no surprise that the major political party voters have drastically different views on the subject – with 24% only of Democrats vs. 49% of Republicans reporting satisfaction with how the government has handled the COVID-19 situation.

The government response to COVID-19 is also a divisive topic within the parties themselves.

Younger Democrats are more satisfied with how the government has handled COVID-19 than older Democrats. But, younger Republicans are actually the most dissatisfied within their party. 

These differences in opinion, most significantly among younger voters, could signal changing party demands for the future.    

These differences are also reflected in attitudes towards public safety measures. 

Democrats are particularly supportive of public safety measures.  

Viral videos show people lashing out because a worker politely asked them to wear a mask. Wouldn’t life be nicer if we didn’t have to wear masks all the time? Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the only road back to normal involves such precautions.

Chart showing support for public safety measures is divided.

Democrats are more interested in a variety of public safety measures than Republicans. While the parties can agree on the need for regular cleaning and disinfecting of spaces, measures such as mandatory face masks and social distancing are more divisive.

President Trump announced he’s pushing for multiple campaign trail events per day leading up to the election, despite his previous diagnosis. 

Events hosted so far, including those in Florida and Iowa, have shown a lack of enforcement of public safety measures. The Iowa rally even included a billboard stating “Trump COVID Superspreader Event” with an arrow in the direction of the rally. 

73% of Republicans oppose demonstrators gathering in public places to protest, compared to only 20% of Democrats.

40% of Republicans also support large indoor venues being reopened – with only 18% of Democrats agreeing. Typically, examples of large indoor events would be concerts, sports games, and even rallies – which of recent have had incredibly large turnouts despite safety concerns. 

Meanwhile, the idea of public protests, particularly in recent months, likely brings to mind the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice issues. 

Which begs the question: do Republicans have issues with public gatherings in large groups (as is happening at these campaign events), or is the aim of the public gatherings the real issue?

There’s a lot of finger-pointing, but no one’s innocent.

As in other global catastrophes, blaming someone or somewhere else makes it easier to mentally cope. But COVID-19 is everyone’s problem – even though many still don’t realize it.

While many blame foreign governments, the U.S. hasn’t taken the most precaution with dealing with the virus either.

46% of U.S. consumers think younger people are to blame for spreading coronavirus at the moment.

Younger consumers would probably disagree, but older age groups tend to support the accusation. 55% of urban voters agree with this sentiment, as well as nearly half of high-income voters in both parties.

Regardless of political party, consumers have become more relaxed in their day-to-day as lockdown restrictions loosen.  

In August, 41% of Americans said they’d met up with friends or relatives from different households inside their home.

Democrat and Republican voters alike showed higher engagement in social and travel activities – showing that no one’s blameless in what can, and must, be considered a global issue. 

Younger voters in both parties participate in these activities more than older voters.

The same can be said for high income groups in both parties. High-income Republicans are more likely to have participated in these activities, while high-income Democrats have been out and about more – meeting up with friends or relatives in outside spaces more than other Democrat income groups.

These behaviors reflect the desire for a sense of normalcy. We’re all desperate to move past the pandemic, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to find a balance of ‘normal’ and safe. 

What Tuesday’s results will mean for COVID-19 in the U.S.

COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon. Our research shows Americans have worried about a potential second wave for months. 

Chart showing downplaying the virus is working on some voters.

3 in 10 American respondents in our July COVID-19 survey reported being extremely concerned about a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the country. But, as with many of these attitudes, the difference among party lines is telling. 

43% of Democrats report being extremely concerned about a potential second wave, against  only 15% of Republicans. 

The virus has already taken hundreds of thousands of lives globally, but there’s still a huge gap in concern levels. This difference in concern speaks volumes to the impact of fake stories that argue the virus is a non-issue, who spreads these stories, and who believes them – a particularly concerning thought with the election in less than a week. 

The President’s diagnosis had potential to be a turning point, with some questioning whether or not the President himself contracting the virus might make him change his ways. This speculation has been disproved.

A second wave seems inevitable, and with that might come another lockdown. Whatever happens on November 3rd will be tremendously important in determining how the U.S. copes with a second uptick of the virus.

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Written by

Emily is a Strategic Insights Analyst at GWI. She uses GWI data to understand consumers and strategize how brands can better reach their audiences. She also contributes to the Chart of the Week blog series, with a particular interest in social media and anthropology. Before joining GWI, Emily completed a degree in Economics and Global Studies at Colby College in Maine.

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