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Covid Split U.S. Along Political Lines More Than Other Countries, Poll Finds

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Topline

The U.S. is one of the most divided countries when it comes to attitudes about the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new Pew Research Center poll published Thursday, underscoring the political dividing lines that split the nation on key issues and the partisan nature of individuals’ response to vaccines and restrictions.

Key Facts

The partisan gap over the importance of getting vaccinated against Covid-19 in the U.S.—46 percentage points—was the largest among the countries Pew surveyed, according to the poll, which was conducted among 24,000 people between February and June 2022 in 19 countries including Canada, Singapore, Sweden, Spain, Japan, the U.K. and Israel.

Liberal Americans—Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents—were far more likely than conservatives—Republicans or Republican-leaning independents—to say getting a vaccine is very important to be a good member of society, 64% and 20%, respectively, according to the poll.

Americans were also most likely to say the coronavirus pandemic has divided the country, the poll found, with 81% saying the outbreak has split the nation and just 17% saying it left it more united than before.

The Netherlands and Germany also reported high rates of division, respectively 80% and 78% of people polled (the 19-country median was 61%), while views in Italy, Belgium and Japan were split and three quarters (75%) of respondents in Singapore said they felt the pandemic increased national unity.

The U.S. stood alone in a rare moment of political unity, the poll found, as it was the only country where even a majority of governing party supporters—in this instance Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents—said the pandemic revealed the country’s political weaknesses.

There is still a partisan gap, however, with 42% of Democrat and Democrat-leaning independents thinking that the country’s handling of the pandemic demonstrates the strengths of the political system, compared with 19% of Republican and Republican-leaning independents.

Surprising Fact

In the U.S. vaccination is an intensely partisan issue. Republicans have been far less likely to accept the shots or adopt other measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and the political left have been more likely to embrace them. In other countries with left-right divides, there are also polarized attitudes towards vaccines, though not always along the same axes. Pew found similar, though less extreme, partisan divides to the U.S. in South Korea, Canada, Italy, Israel, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany. In Hungary, Poland, France and Greece, however, Pew found those on the political right were more likely to say vaccination is very important for being a good citizen.

Key Background

While the U.S. is far from the only country to be divided along political lines, its extreme polarization marks it as an outlier among peer countries. American politics has not always been this way and the current landscape is the result of decades of gradual shift along party lines. The issue has hampered officials’ abilities to manage crises like the pandemic, stoking conflict and disunity over basic public health interventions like masking or vaccination. Data suggests the outcome can be lethal, with those living in pro-Trump counties more likely to die from Covid-19 than those in Democrat-voting areas.

Further Reading

Here’s Who’s Still Wearing Masks The Most (And Least) (Forbes)

Americans Increasingly See Political Opponents As Dishonest, Lazy And Close-Minded, Poll Finds (Forbes)

The Doom Spiral of Pernicious Polarization (Atlantic)

People Living In Pro-Trump Counties More Likely To Die From Covid, Study Finds (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus


Topline

The U.S. is one of the most divided countries when it comes to attitudes about the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new Pew Research Center poll published Thursday, underscoring the political dividing lines that split the nation on key issues and the partisan nature of individuals’ response to vaccines and restrictions.

Key Facts

The partisan gap over the importance of getting vaccinated against Covid-19 in the U.S.—46 percentage points—was the largest among the countries Pew surveyed, according to the poll, which was conducted among 24,000 people between February and June 2022 in 19 countries including Canada, Singapore, Sweden, Spain, Japan, the U.K. and Israel.

Liberal Americans—Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents—were far more likely than conservatives—Republicans or Republican-leaning independents—to say getting a vaccine is very important to be a good member of society, 64% and 20%, respectively, according to the poll.

Americans were also most likely to say the coronavirus pandemic has divided the country, the poll found, with 81% saying the outbreak has split the nation and just 17% saying it left it more united than before.

The Netherlands and Germany also reported high rates of division, respectively 80% and 78% of people polled (the 19-country median was 61%), while views in Italy, Belgium and Japan were split and three quarters (75%) of respondents in Singapore said they felt the pandemic increased national unity.

The U.S. stood alone in a rare moment of political unity, the poll found, as it was the only country where even a majority of governing party supporters—in this instance Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents—said the pandemic revealed the country’s political weaknesses.

There is still a partisan gap, however, with 42% of Democrat and Democrat-leaning independents thinking that the country’s handling of the pandemic demonstrates the strengths of the political system, compared with 19% of Republican and Republican-leaning independents.

Surprising Fact

In the U.S. vaccination is an intensely partisan issue. Republicans have been far less likely to accept the shots or adopt other measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and the political left have been more likely to embrace them. In other countries with left-right divides, there are also polarized attitudes towards vaccines, though not always along the same axes. Pew found similar, though less extreme, partisan divides to the U.S. in South Korea, Canada, Italy, Israel, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany. In Hungary, Poland, France and Greece, however, Pew found those on the political right were more likely to say vaccination is very important for being a good citizen.

Key Background

While the U.S. is far from the only country to be divided along political lines, its extreme polarization marks it as an outlier among peer countries. American politics has not always been this way and the current landscape is the result of decades of gradual shift along party lines. The issue has hampered officials’ abilities to manage crises like the pandemic, stoking conflict and disunity over basic public health interventions like masking or vaccination. Data suggests the outcome can be lethal, with those living in pro-Trump counties more likely to die from Covid-19 than those in Democrat-voting areas.

Further Reading

Here’s Who’s Still Wearing Masks The Most (And Least) (Forbes)

Americans Increasingly See Political Opponents As Dishonest, Lazy And Close-Minded, Poll Finds (Forbes)

The Doom Spiral of Pernicious Polarization (Atlantic)

People Living In Pro-Trump Counties More Likely To Die From Covid, Study Finds (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

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