The Public’s COVID-19 Sentiment Is The Key To The Election

This is the first blog post of a three-part series on the effect of COVID-19 on the November 3rd election.

With more than 200,000 recorded U.S. COVID-19-related deaths, add in another plot twist: last night we learned that Donald and Melania Trump both contracted it.

As if Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court vacancy wasn’t enough drama.

As I write, the early indications are that Trump has a sniffle, some cold-like symptoms, fatigue. At 74, he finds himself in that vulnerable age group that could have him still fighting this thing – or worse – as the election approaches. You may recall that earlier this year Britain’s Boris Johnson also caught it, but he’s 18 years younger than Trump. Another notable global leader, the “Tropical Trump,” Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, caught Covid-19 and got over it this summer. He is 65 years old.

In a country where everything is political, our response to COVID-19 split down party lines months ago. The face of the lockdown camp is Democrat Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York. Advocating for reopening on the other side is Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor. At the federal level, the same concept: Cuomo’s reputation correlates with Joe Biden’s, while DeSantis is the state-level proxy for Donald Trump.

Here’s a question from the Economist/YouGov poll:

“Taking into consideration both your risk of contracting it and the seriousness of the illness, how worried are you personally about experiencing COVID-19?”

Note the wording of the question. It isn’t about your concern that you could catch it and pass it to an elderly relative. It’s about your personal health.

I have wrongly believed for months that the falling trend in hospitalizations would raise the ranks of the “Not Worried at All” respondents.

That has not happened (figure 1). Now, with Trump’s positive COVID-19 test splashed across the headlines, you have to wonder if social media’s “risk assessment via anecdote” issue will shift public sentiment. If Trump deteriorates, societal fear levels about the severity of the virus will spike. On the other side, the more likely outcome, even for a 74-year-old, is that he experiences cold symptoms and is back firing a couple weeks from now. In that circumstance, do more people have the conversation about Trump’s COVID-19 from the comfort of a restaurant booth?

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