Should political primaries and national conventions be rescheduled amid COVID-19?

March 19, 2020, 1:15 PM GMT+0

Politics is taking a back seat to the coronavirus threat. Primaries have been postponed, and the latest Economist/YouGov Poll shows Americans — even Democratic primary voters — paying less attention to the 2020 election than they were last week.

Last week, more than three in five (62%) Democratic primary voters were paying “a lot” of attention to the 2020 election campaign for president. This week, fewer than half (48%) say they are paying a lot of attention.

The reduced attention may also be due to a belief that the Democratic nominating system is effectively over. Two-thirds of Democratic primary voters expect former Vice President Joe Biden to be the party’s nominee. He is preferred over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders by 21 points among those voters (57% to 36%). For the first time in several weeks, Democratic primary voters are more likely to say their party is more united than divided.

That’s a shift from the beginning of the Democratic primary contests. Just after the Iowa Caucuses, Democratic voters were 12 points more likely to say their party was more divided than usual.

But coronavirus has already impacted voting in some states; Georgia and Louisiana worked to postpone primary elections after the Trump Administration advised avoiding gatherings of 10 or more.

Most Democratic voters don’t think it is an overreaction to postpone primaries, though nearly three in 10 (29%) think it is. Republican primary voters are even more likely to call postponements overreactions. Nearly as many Republican voters (40%) this week say it is an overreaction as think it is not (42%). As for the party conventions, many haven’t made up their minds about whether or not they should go on as scheduled, though only about one in ten (12%) would cancel them outright.

Democratic voters perceive the two men who want to run against President Donald Trump this fall somewhat differently. They are as likely to have favorable opinions of each of them, but even more see Sanders as caring and honest than say that about Biden.

However, Biden scores 12 points better than Sanders among Democratic primary voters when it comes to handling international crises and ten points better on handling coronavirus. However, neither Biden nor Sanders nor President Trump gets positive assessments from the public overall when it comes to handling the coronavirus.

The President’s coronavirus approval rating is much better than it was two weeks ago, when 56% disapproved of how he was handling it, but the country is still divided. Today 45% approve, but 46% do not.

The coronavirus has made the public pay more attention to health care as an issue. It was always important to Democrats, but now also ranks high with Republicans. The meaning of health care as an issue has moved beyond the Affordable Care Act and Medicare for All to dealing with an ongoing epidemic. Two weeks ago, just 12% of Republicans said health care was their most important issue. Now that percentage has almost doubled to 23%. Nearly as many Republicans cite health care now as mention the economy.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll

Image: Getty

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