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Democrats Are Being Much, Much More Careful About the Coronavirus Than Republicans

Gloved hands push a full shopping cart.
A customer stocks up in Saugus, Massachusetts, on Friday.
Joseph Prezioso/Getty Images

There’s been a fair bit of polling showing that, in general, Democrats were much more concerned about the threat of the coronavirus than Republicans, who were presumably taking their early, lax cues from the White House and Fox News. Now, a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that Democrats have generally been taking more precautionary measures as the pandemic burns on, suggesting that the differences in outlook may also be having real-world, public health consequences.

According to the think tank, 80 percent of Democrats had taken at least one serious precaution to prevent the illness’ spread—either canceling or changing travel plans, avoiding big gatherings, stocking up on supplies, or wearing a protective mask. By comparison, just 53 percent of Republicans said they had done one of those things. (Independents, as usual, were somewhere in between). As the Atlantic’s Amanda Mull joked, you might think that red-state rural doomsday preppers would have seized on this as their moment to shine, but apparently not:

Democrats are taking a lot more precautions.
Kaiser Family Foundation

And yes, the survey offers some evidence that this partisan divide is at least partly Donald Trump’s fault. Until his recent turnaround, the president relentlessly downplayed the outbreak’s seriousness, telling Americans it was under control—sample quote: “Calm. You have to be calm. It’ll go away”—while refusing to take basic precautions like avoiding handshakes. Notably, 88 percent of Republicans told Kaiser that they thought Trump was a reliable source of information on the virus, versus 19 percent of Democrats. This is one case where reality really does have a liberal bias:

Partisan divides on coronavirus
Kaiser Family Foundation

The Kaiser poll was conducted between March 11 and 15. Thankfully, Trump has changed his tune. He’s admitted the seriousness of the outbreak and is advising Americans to avoid large gatherings. But in the crucial early days of this crisis, it looks like a lot of conservatives made the terrible mistake of following his lead.