How DC elites are thinking about the coronavirus pandemic

Oliver RoweDirector of Reputation Research
August 26, 2020, 3:29 PM UTC

Elite individuals working in Washington DC say they remain very worried about coronavirus and its impact with over half (59%) saying they expect a second wave of infections to hit the US and it will be worse than the first wave. However, half (52%) are confident the healthcare system will be able to cope while a third (32%) don’t think it will.

This politically balanced sample of senior individuals working across Congress, federal government, think tanks, academia and commerce were polled in August 2020 to find out how they feel the US is coping with coronavirus. 4 out of 5 (81%) feel that some US states are handling the crisis very badly and only a minority (39%) believe that the US is doing a better job than other countries. Three quarters (73%) want to see the US cooperating more with other countries to deal with the virus. 

One major concern is that two-thirds (68%) fear the virus will lead to more civil unrest across the US. Half (51%) of respondents feel that vulnerable citizens (elderly, ill, disabled) are not getting enough federal support and many also feel small businesses, workers, and the unemployed need more help. By contrast, large corporates are felt by a plurality (44%) to be getting too much support. 

The balance between supporting the economy and the health of US citizens seems on balance to be about right, however when examined by political affiliation we find that Republican elites feel there is too much support focused on health while Democrats say effort is too focused on the economy. 

When similar research was run in April this year the main action on coronavirus respondents wanted from the Federal Government at that time was more testing (32%) but now unemployment benefit (18%) is top, then a national mask order (17%) and a national strategy (16%) in third. 

The impact of the virus leads two thirds (64%) of those polled to believe the US is heading for a deep recession (just 16% disagree). Only a third (31%) think that November’s presidential election will be postponed and in that election over half (54%) expect Democratic nominee Joe Biden to win versus a third (32%) believing President Donald Trump will be re-elected. 

The survey also touched on the Black Lives Matter protests. Two thirds (63%) believe the protests will improve race relations in the US while a quarter (23%) think race relations will deteriorate. Over half (57%) think law enforcement will improve. 38% think the protest will have improved President Trumps’ chances of re-election while 43% believe his chances have deteriorated as a result. 

Methodology: YouGov interviewed 241 individuals online between July 27 and August 10, 2020. The sample was drawn from YouGov’s own panel plus external contacts. Respondents all work in senior roles in think tanks, Congress, federal government departments/agencies, non-profits, commerce/trade groups or academia in Washington DC, and the sample is politically balanced. 

Image: Getty