May 20, 2020

Spring is here in DC.  Still some cool days, but progressively it is looking and feeling like summer.  People are anxious—they are increasingly going out, but still are fearful of the external COVID-19 world.  And America is, well, America—completely disorganized and decentralized politically.

Oh, how our founding fathers would be both pleased and horrified at the collective response to the pandemic.  And again, politicians face an impossible Faustian bargain right now: do I choose the economy or health? Jobs or more deaths? Ease up or slow down?

Given the decentralized nature of our American experience, we have a natural experiment at work.  Let’s see how things unfold and how people react.   

Below I detail the most important polling data of the week.

  •     America is spontaneously reemerging. Over the last few weeks, people have begun to poke their heads out the door. See how they increasingly are seeing family and friends.  Humans are social creatures; it is hard being cooped up for so long in self-quarantine.  Should we really expect anything different?


  •     But they are still scared of our external COVID-19 world. A strong majority of Americans (64%) continue to see the external COVID-19 world as very risky. This is a reality that politicians must heed.  People have serious trepidation about a landscape where only the Doordashes and Amazons reign supreme.  That said, Democrats see danger everywhere, Republicans much less so.  



  •     Sports and vaccines. Americans love their sports. My Cubbies should be playing now. But, I, like most Americans, don’t love our sports teams enough to go to a large event right now. Looks like it will take a vaccine before we go back en masse to large-scale sporting events.  Think of it—vaccines and sports.  Who would have thought it?


  •     Brass Tacks: Don't open too fast. In our recent Washington Post/Ipsos poll, we find that states that eased up earlier and faster are faring much worse in public opinion than those that did not. Look at Ohio, New York, and California compared to Texas, Georgia, and Florida.  Americans are still very anxious about the world.  And they are taking their angst out on those governors who are easing up.  Finally, look at the partisan differences. Again, a tale of two Americas.


  •     Contact tracing, American-style. Americans are not too keen on having Big Brother tracking them. It might be good from an epidemiological science perspective but runs counter to our fundamental American values. This suggests that bottom-up versus top down solutions will probably win out; America is all about local control and individual choice. As I told Axios, America will have a contact tracing solution, but not mandated by a centralized authority. Why? Because such edicts run counter to our cultural ethos.


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