NOEL TURNBULL. They’re not all knukcle-dragging proto fascists

It is often easy to imagine that all Americans are unhinged, gun-toting, Bible bashing, conspiracy believers, LBQT+ haters and Trump supporters.

Yet the evidence of some recent polling suggests this is not the case just as various investigative journalists have demonstrated that the ‘popular’ uprisings against lockdowns have been prompted by far-Right wealthy activists, such as the De Vos family, motivating an unrepresentative minority. Indeed, the majority Americans are far more sensible than many of us in the rest of the world believe.

The George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (4C) has been monitoring US attitudes to a wide range of COVID-19 and other issues. Many of the attitudes are in stark difference from those of the Trump administration and Republicans and they are translating into better political news for Democrats.

For instance a recent 4C survey found that only one in five surveyed believe the US should loosen the social distancing restrictions and reopen non-essential businesses, even if it means some Americans will be at greater risk of contracting or dying from the coronavirus. Some of them demonstrated that belief by occupying the Michigan state house armed with enough weapons to have made a difference to the hapless US-led attempted invasion of Venezuela.

However, “Eight in 10 (80%) voters – including about nine in 10 (91%) Democrats and two-thirds (67%) of Republicans – say we should listen to scientists and public health experts who recommend we continue social distancing and keep non-essential businesses closed reports…..Voters are also generally observing social distancing guidelines: More than seven in 10 (71%) say they have not left their home in the last 3 days for non-essential reasons.” 4C reports.

In a rebuff to the Pussy-Grabber in Chief the survey found that “nearly nine in 10 (88%) voters, including Democrats (91%) and Republicans (86%), say politicians should trust the experts and heed their advice, even if they may not personally agree.” As for politicians “trusting their own instincts and acting accordingly, even if it means going against the advice of experts” – that was supported by 12%.

For those who imagine Democrat Congresswoman, Alexandria Occasio-Cortez, is way outside the US mainstream the survey found that: “About nine in 10 voters support offering guaranteed unemployment benefits to workers impacted by the coronavirus (92%); temporarily freezing evictions and foreclosures (91%); and, suspending student debt payments for six months (88%).”

“About eight in 10 support providing 12 weeks of paid family and sick leave for all employees (81%) and increasing federal funding for food stamps (79%). About two-thirds support eliminating up to $10,000 of individual student debt (68%) and cutting payroll taxes (66%).” There were no questions about a Universal Basic Income and universal health care but one suspects there could be significant support for those as well.

4C also looked at American’s risk perceptions and emotional responses to COVID-19 as well as some immediate impacts on respondents. It found that: “Nearly one in five Americans say they or a household member has filed for unemployment (18%), lost a job (17%), or been unable to get adequate medical care (17%).

“Three in ten or more say they or a household member has lost money in retirement accounts or investments (38%), had work hours reduced (34%), lost income from a job or business (32%), or been unable to get groceries (30%).

“Eight in ten or more Americans are worried about the healthcare system being overwhelmed by coronavirus patients (85%), the world experiencing a global economic depression (84%), businesses failing in their local community (82%), and unemployment increasing in their state (80%).”

If you doubted that this would have an impact on Trump’s re-election prospects, the outcome of Congressional elections and perhaps even the prospect of the Republicans losing their Senate majority, the survey found that: “Half (50%) of voters say if the election for Congress in their district were held today, they would vote for the Democrat, while 40% would vote for the Republican, and 10% would vote for neither candidate or for another candidate.

“And when voters were asked how they would vote if the election for president were held today, Joe Biden (49%) had a nine-point advantage over Donald Trump (40%) nationally.”

These findings are consistent with a number of recent surveys looking at voting preferences in individual States which are bad news for the Republicans in the Senate. Although, before we all crack the champagne, the same surveys indicate that it is still possible that Trump could lose the popular vote by 4% or more and still carry the Electoral College.

Meanwhile it’s also why Democrats are praying for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health although who knows what Republicans might do if anything happened to her before a new Senate was in place. There is a sort of ‘rule’, which apparently dates to 1980, that posits that, sometime after spring in a presidential election year, no judges will be confirmed without the consent of the Republican and Democratic leaders and the judiciary chairman and ranking minority member. This may have been the McConnell rationale for holding up the Obama proposed Garland appointment.

But if you think that custom – or the need for consistency – would stop Mitch McConnell there is a bridge in Brooklyn we can sell you.

On the other side of the Atlantic the public, as the UK is potentially easing some lockdown restrictions from this week, are equally not that keen on the plan. An Opinium poll for the Observer found that: “Fewer than one in 10 think schools (8%), offices (8%) and non-essential shops (9%) should reopen immediately.

“Similarly, the public seem uncomfortable with the idea of visiting public places or using public transport even after restrictions are lifted. Three in five (60%) say they would not feel comfortable eating in a restaurant, while over half would feel uncomfortable using the underground (55%) or travelling by bus or train (59% and 56% respectively).”

When it comes to bolting from the kids and getting back to the office the story is a bit different with more than a third (36%) feeling comfortable returning to offices while 30% would feel uncomfortable going back to working in an office.

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Noel Turnbull is a blogger who has had a 40-year-plus career in public relations, politics, journalism and academia.

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