On Politics: ‘Politics and Cronyism Ahead of Science’

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President Trump and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, during Wednesday’s daily briefing.

Even as some Republican governors take steps to reopen their states’ economies, most Americans remain wary of the virus’s threat and are willing to stay home to stop its spread, polls show.

But a shift in sentiment is occurring, particularly among Republicans — most of whom now say the worst is most likely behind us, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released today.

While 51 percent of Americans said they thought the worst days of the pandemic still lay ahead, including nearly two-thirds of Democrats, a slim majority of Republicans said the opposite. That represents a change from late March, when another Kaiser poll found that two-thirds of Republicans expected things to get worse before getting better.

When it comes to shelter-in-place restrictions, most Americans in the new poll said they remained worthwhile; that was true across party lines. Even in states with Republican governors — who have generally been more willing to entertain lifting restrictions, and eight of whom never ordered statewide limitations at all — support remains relatively high for stay-at-home orders, regardless of respondents’ party affiliation.

Yet two in five Republicans nationwide now say that these kinds of restrictions are an unnecessary burden and are causing more harm than good. That makes Republicans more than twice as likely as independents — and exponentially more likely than Democrats — to express disillusionment with the restrictions.

Governors in some Southern states announced plans this week to begin lifting the restrictions on social distancing, though federal health officials have consistently said this could lead to a resurgence of the virus. Demonstrators, often with backing from conservative interest groups, have taken to the streets in various other states to protest the stay-at-home orders.

The mixed feelings of everyday Republicans reflected in the Kaiser poll are mirrored by the conflicting messages coming from national and state leaders. Trump has repeatedly encouraged governors to make their own decisions on when to reopen, and he has said he hopes that it can happen soon. But after Brian Kemp, the governor of Georgia, announced plans this week to reopen, Trump criticized him, saying, “I think it’s too soon.”

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