On Monday, The Atlantic published an article declaring that “The Social-Distancing Culture War Has Begun,” accusing Republicans of not taking seriously precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the Wuhan virus. As Atlantic writer Mckay Coppins wrote:
The polarization around public health seems to be accelerating: In recent days, Republican governors in Alabama and Mississippi have resisted calls to enact more forceful mitigation policies. Polling data suggest that Republicans throughout the U.S. are much less concerned about the coronavirus than Democrats are. According to a recent analysis by the New York Times, Trump won 23 of 25 states where people have reduced personal travel the least.
A wider review of the data however, reveals that public behavior no longer supports Coppins’ primary conclusion. The data cited by Coppins that include three surveys still reveal broad concern about the virus and a commitment to social distancing across the political spectrum even as partisan gaps existed at the earlier onset of the pandemic.
According to mid-March surveys from Gallup and NPR with PBS NewsHour and Marist, Democrats were indeed shown to be practicing the social distancing measures much more strictly than Republicans. Between March 13-15, for example, Gallup found that 12 percent of Republicans said they were avoiding small gatherings with friends and family compared to 32 percent of Democrats who said the same. When Gallup ran the survey again March 20-22, a 20 percent gap still persisted despite a sharp rise in those avoiding public spaces in both parties.
A more recent poll conducted a week after the surveys noted by Coppins, however, show no such gap. According to a survey by CBS News that took place March 21-23, strong majorities of both Republicans and Democrats were shown to be taking social distancing measures seriously, with only 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively, of those surveyed still living their lives as normal.
Sixty-one percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans reported only going out when they absolutely have to. While Democrats and liberals were shown to be more cautious about leaving the home in the CBS survey, the large gap illustrated in previous data was practically non-existent.
I don't want to downplay the extremely real partisan divides on broader attitudes over coronavirus/government response.
But there's far less of a partisan gap in actual *behavior* than these kinds of stories imply. pic.twitter.com/IW64OuRRHN
— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) March 30, 2020
Social distancing and media skepticism are not mutually exclusive, and adhering to U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommendations and government directives are not partisan activities, despite media attempts to paint them as such.
so we're just going to be in quarantine forever huh pic.twitter.com/loykFYkNRD
— internet baby (@kirkpate) March 30, 2020