WASHINGTON – The partisan divide between Americans who believe "it is safe now" to reopen businesses and vote, and those wishing to "wait several months" to resume such activities, persists as the amount of coronavirus cases continues to rise, according to a new survey.
Currently, 32% of Republicans believe it's safe now to hold elections where many people vote in-person, according to a survey from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project. That is a 6 percentage point drop from June.
Comparatively, only 10% of Democrats believe it's safe now to hold elections. In June, that number was at 12%.
When people were asked if it will be safe to hold elections in a couple of weeks, months or more than six months, Republicans tended to be more open to the idea of reopening sooner than Democrats.
For example, 15% of Democrats believe it will be safe in a couple weeks to hold elections where many people vote in-person, compared to 19% of Republicans. When asked about holding elections in several months, 27% of Democrats and 21% of Republicans say it will be safe to do so.
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The largest divide is among those who say it will be safe in six months or more to hold an election, with Democrats at 29% and Republicans at 14%.
Voting is just one of several activities over which Democrats and Republicans are divided, according to the Nationscape Insights analysis, a project of Democracy Fund, UCLA and USA TODAY.
Here's what else the data found:
In the month of July, 26% of Republicans believed that it's safe now to reopen schools and universities, compared to 6% of Democrats. Thirteen percent of Democrats and 20% of Republicans say it will be safe several weeks from now. The largest gap between the two is among those who believe it will be safe to reopen schools in six or more months, with 38% of Democrats saying it will be safe compared to 19% of Republicans.
Twenty-five percent of Republicans believe it's safe right now for officials to reopen businesses like bars and theaters compared to 7% of Democrats. The largest divide between the two is those who say it will be safe six or more months to reopen these businesses, with 37% of Democrats saying it will be safe compared to 20% of Republicans.
Twenty-three percent of Republicans think it's safe right now to allow gatherings of more than 10 people, while only 7% of Democrats believe it is. The largest gap between the two are those say it will be safe in six or more months to gather. Thirty-nine percent of Democrats say it will be safe, compared to 22% of Republicans.
Among those who say officials should end "stay at home" orders right now, 32% of Republicans say they should compared to 9% of Democrats. The largest divide is those who think it will be safe six or more months from now, with 31% of Democrats and 16% of Republicans saying it will be safe.
Lynn Vavreck, UCLA political scientist and co-creator of Nationscape, said that the partisan divide is likely caused by messaging from "partisan elites," such as President Donald Trump.
Vavreck noted separation between Democrats and Republicans wasn't as notable in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. She said voters began splitting once the president began changing messaging like calling for states to reopen.
"Once you start to see the two competing messages between the public health community, which most Democrats were on board with and what the President was saying and encouraging, then you start to see voters separate," she said.
The Democracy Fund and UCLA Nationscape Project is a large-scale study of the American electorate designed to conduct 500,000 interviews about policies and the presidential candidates during the 2020 election cycle. The July poll was conducted July 23 to 29, surveying 6,558 Americans. There is a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. The June poll was conducted the week of June 18 to 24, surveying 6,491 Americans. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.
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Overall, there was a drop in the past month among Americans who believe it is safe now to resume these activities due to the increase of coronavirus cases.
Currently, only 15% of Americans believe it's safe right now to reopen larger businesses like bars and theaters, which is down 6 percentage points from June. There has also been changes among those who believe it will be safe to reopen such businesses in several weeks, from 21% to 16%. In addition, those who believe it will be safe in several months went up 2 percentage points in July to 26%. Among those who believe it will be safe in six or more months, there was a 7 percentage point increase to 29% in July.
"People over this period when the virus is growing become less willing to say that it's safe now to do these things," Vavreck said as COVID-19 cases continue to spread in different communities. "In most of these cases, you're going to see everybody think that it's not safe to do these things right now we should be doing them later."
Almost 1 out of 5 Americans (19%) said that it's safe right now to hold an election with a lot of in-person voters. But in June, that number was at 23%. Americans didn't show much movement when asked if it will be safe in several weeks (16% in both June and July), in several months (24%) or in six or more months (21% in June and 22% in July.) But the amount of Americans who are unsure about when it will be safe to hold an election with a lot of in-person voters did see a slight increase from June to July, from 16% to 19%.
Other data includes:
Fifteen percent of Americans think it's safe right now to reopen schools and universities, a 2 percentage point drop from June. However, there was an increase among Americans – from 23% to 28% – who say it won't be safe until six or more months from now.
There's been a 6 percentage point drop to 14% among Americans who think it's safe right now to hold a gathering with 10 or more people. There was also a 6 percentage point increase among those who say it won't be safe until six or more months from now, from 25% to 31%.
Only 19% of Americans believe that it's safe right now for officials to end stay at home orders, a six percentage point drop from June. In addition, 24% of Americans believe that it will be safe in six or more months to end stay at home orders, a 6 percentage point increase from June.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Partisan divide on reopening continues as cases rise