Red State Warnings about the COVID Debate

August 25, 2021

We’ve conducted three surveys in Red States over the summer, measuring voter opinions on public policy options to address the Covid 19 Delta Variant. Our most recent work for Millsaps College was in Mississippi – the state with the third highest death rate from COVID and currently leading the world in new COVID cases per capita.

The results were troubling.

Paul Krugman recently suggested there was a “quiet rage of the responsible”—that those who are vaccinated, wearing masks, and generally following the guidelines suggested by experts to keep themselves and others safe are now silently seething at the irresponsibility of those who refuse to follow the rules. If such an anger exists, it has not translated into a desire for policy change where we polled.

Those who are vaccinated don’t support denying hospital access to the unvaccinated who contract COVID nor sending them “to the end of the line” in hospital ER’s or ICU’s so that the vaccinated get priority. Nor do the vaccinated support allowing insurance companies to charge the unvaccinated more for illness resulting from their ignoring sound medical advice.

The GOP base has abandoned the Republican orthodoxy that private employers should have broad latitude in managing their employees (get vaccines/wear masks) and which customers they serve (only the masked).

The “Never Vaxxers” are essentially unreachable. They have rejected the science — 76% of them say masks don’t work. Half of them either deny the effectiveness of the vaccine or say they are waiting to see if it works in others, and another 26% of this group simply refuse because they don’t trust the government.

Do these surveys offer insights for national politics?  Here are two to consider:

No good deed goes unpunished. Because the GOP partisan denial is baked in, even the incremental steps toward a commonsense policy—requiring nursing home employees, members of the military and federal employees to get vaccinated—will continue to be a drag on the President’s approval ratings.

The GOP pendulum wont swing back any time soon. Trump and his acolytes have convinced an alarming percentage of Republican voters to totally distrust government and health care institutions, rejecting traditionally conservative responses to national problems in favor of the Big Lie 2.0.


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