Published August 30, 2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is again receiving national media scrutiny as his state’s covid-19 cases and hospitalizations soar to record levels. That is as likely to help him politically as it is to hurt him.
How could this be? That Florida is one of the nation’s pandemic hot spots surely raises the expectation that the Republican governor’s standing with voters will take a hit. Combined with his opposition to mask mandates and generally pro-opening stance throughout the year-long crisis, one could also conclude that his positions are to blame for many of the cases and deaths we are witnessing.
But that misreads voter sentiments, especially among Republicans. Attitudes toward measures to control the spread of the coronavirus have differed sharply on partisan lines throughout the pandemic. Indeed, a June poll from Pew Research Center found that political polarization over whether a nation’s covid-19 response was good or bad was higher in the United States than in any other major Western country. Fifty-two percent of Americans on the right said there should have been fewer restrictions to control the virus (far higher than right-wing voters of other countries), compared with only 7 percent of those on the left saying the same thing. That’s a larger divide than anywhere else.
Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics.
Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how America’s political order is being upended by populist challenges, from the left and the right. He also studies populism’s impact in other democracies in the developed world.