May 22, 2020 - Health

The coronavirus invades Trump country

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republicans are still less worried about the coronavirus than Democrats or independents, even as it spreads out from primarily urban areas into suburban and rural Republican-leaning areas.

Why it matters: The virus doesn't care about politics or geography. High-risk behavior in places where the virus is spreading is the recipe for an outbreak.

Map courtesy of the Brookings Institute. Note: High-risk counties are counties with at least 100 cases per 100,000 residents, as of May 17.

The big picture: For the last four weeks, counties newly designated as having a high prevalence of coronavirus cases — meaning at least 100 cases per 100,000 people — were more likely to have voted for President Trump than Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to a recent analysis by the Brookings Institution.

  • The most recently identified counties tend to be in the South and the Midwest.
  • Between March 29 and May 17, the portion of Americans living in high-prevalence counties rose from 8% to 79%.

What they're saying: "This suggests that rhetoric from some of the president’s supporters against maintaining public health measures may become more muted, as the nation continues to grapple with the many unknowns about COVID-19’s continued spread," writes William Frey, the author of the analysis.

Yes, but: That's not happening.

  • Republicans are more willing than Democrats or independents to partake in activities that involve interacting with other people, per new polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • Two-thirds of Republicans said either that the pandemic isn't a major problem or that the "worst is behind us." On the other hand, 70% of Democrats and half of independents said that the "the worst is yet to come."
Data: KFF; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: KFF; Chart: Axios Visuals

The bottom line: How people feel about the coronavirus will undoubtedly impact the kinds of risks they are willing to take, which will in turn impact the extent of future outbreaks.

  • Although it may have been true in February and March that people living in red areas were unlikely to catch the coronavirus while going about their normal lives, it's not true anymore.
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