“I’m viewing our great citizens of this country to a certain extent and to a large extent as warriors,” Trump said yesterday. “They’re warriors. We can’t keep our country closed. We have to open our country.”
Apparently most Americans are not eager to think of themselves as warriors—or are simply wise soldiers, with strategy as their strength. A poll from The Washington Post and the University of Maryland released yesterday finds that eight in 10 Americans oppose reopening movie theaters and gyms; three-quarters don’t support letting sit-down restaurants and nail salons reopen; and a third or less would allow barber shops, gun stores, and retail stores to operate. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll last week found similar numbers: Nine in 10 Americans don’t think sporting events should have crowds without more testing; 85 percent would keep schools closed, and 80 percent would keep dine-in restaurants shut. There is no significant difference in views between residents of states that have begun loosening restrictions and those that have not.
This uniformity is a sharp departure from the totalizing logic of the Trump era. In perhaps the most extreme example, a small majority of Republican respondents told YouGov last year that Trump was a better president than Abraham Lincoln. That result fit the general pattern, while these results do not.
It’s not for lack of effort on Trump’s part. The president has sought to politicize reopening the country, just as he has other issues. He has said that the cure—that is, pausing the economy—cannot be worse than the disease, voiced support for protesters in blue states demanding looser restrictions, and last week hosted a series of White House events devoted to reopening the country. (The president has, however, been inconsistent. In March, he endorsed social-distancing measures. In April, after publicly pushing for reopening and reportedly privately endorsing Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s plans, Trump publicly criticized Kemp.) Yet these polls suggest that voters aren’t making the connection, and remain wary.
The result is all the more striking because views on Trump’s handling of the crisis follow the usual pattern, remaining deeply split along partisan lines. The Post/University of Maryland poll found 56 percent disapproving and 44 percent approving of his response to the coronavirus. The approval numbers closely track Trump’s overall job-approval rating, which has remained strikingly stable throughout his volatile presidency. In pandemic-related polls, Republicans approve of Trump’s handling of the crisis much more highly than Democrats do. Democrats are more likely to identify themselves as worried about the virus than Republicans, and Republicans are more likely to approve of opening business than Democrats—in some cases significantly so. Yet even then, majorities of Republicans only support reopening retail shops and golf courses, the same sorts of businesses that most Americans overall want to open. The polling suggests that there’s a sizable tranche of Americans who approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic but do not agree with his calls for a swift reopening.