Last week, the White House announced that two members of the White House staff — one of President Donald Trump’s personal valets and the spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence — tested positive for COVID-19. The announcement led to weeks of self-quarantine for government employees who interacted with the two, and it reminded the public that no one can be sure they are safe from the coronavirus.
In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, about one in five (21%) personally know someone who has tested positive for the virus. They expect to see the coronavirus impact those in government, too.
Seven in 10 Americans believe it is likely that even more political figures will contract the virus (70%). Though one might expect that the coronavirus entry into a GOP White House might bother Republicans more, that’s not the case. Democrats (83%) are more worried than Republicans (63%) about the spread of the disease in Washington. Most Republicans agree that it’s likely more politicians will contract COVID-19; they just don’t think it’s very likely (14%).
Democrats are also more concerned about how the spread of COVID-19 will affect the government’s ability to function properly. Most Democrats are concerned about this, compared to just a third of Republicans.
The White House response to its COVID-19 cases was to institute a policy of requiring masks of all those working there (except for the President and Vice President). By doing that, the White House staff will be joining most Americans, who increasingly have worn face masks. This week, 79 percent say they have worn a mask, more than ever before.
Mask wearing is now a norm.
The federal government and President Trump have been criticized for the response to the pandemic. Last week, former President Barack Obama described the response as an “absolute chaotic disaster.” The poll was conducted after this statement was reported, but it’s not clear how many respondents were aware Mr. Obama said this.
As of now, Obama remains popular: his overall public favorable ratings (54%) exceed unfavorable ones (41%). Those are better than the current President’s rating of 45 percent favorable and 51 percent unfavorable.