One in five Republicans prioritize the economy over American lives

Linley SandersData Journalist
March 27, 2020, 2:25 PM UTC

In recent days, President Donald Trump and conservative economic advisers have speculated that the government-mandated US economic shutdown — a tradeoff for slowing the spread of COVID-19 across the nation and saving American lives — went too far.

Trump indicated during a public address this week that he potentially wants American businesses to begin reopening prior to the timeline recommended by public health officials, saying, “America will, again, and soon, be open for business. Very soon. A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. Lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” 

But even as the economy suffers, a YouGov Daily poll of 9,000 Americans finds that most people accept the tradeoff of prioritizing lives over economic prosperity. A majority of Americans (75%) believe it’s more important to save American lives even if the US economy suffers. Just slightly more than one in nine US adults (11%) would prioritize saving the economy, even if it means American lives are lost.

A majority of Democrats (90%), Republicans (61%), and Independents (71%) say that saving American lives is their priority amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But Republicans are five times (20%) more likely than Democrats (4%) to say it’s more important to save the US economy, even if American lives are lost. Nearly one in five (19%) Republicans are unsure of their stance on the issue.

Americans of all age groups choose similarly. Seven in ten (70%) individuals between 18-to 24 years old say it is more important to save American lives rather than the economy. Among Americans who are 55 or older—and thus at a higher risk for complications from the coronavirus—the choice is even clearer: more than three-fourths would prioritize lives (78%) over the economy (11%). 

There is little doubt that the economy is suffering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as Americans express a willingness to sacrifice the economy for the ability to save Americans. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll found that about half the country (49%) believes the economy is getting worse, up eight points in the last week, and the highest figure recorded in the Economist/YouGov Poll since 2011. 

RelatedMost Americans don’t trust President Trump for accurate COVID-19 information 

Methodology: Panelists were asked, “Which of the following statements comes closer to your opinion on whether it's more important to save American lives or save the US economy?” Total unweighted sample size was 9,032 US adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (ages 18+). Interviews were conducted online between March 25 - 26, 2020. 

See the full poll results from YouGov Daily, and sign up to receive the newsletter.

Image: Getty