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Partisan differences in acceptability of coronavirus deaths

August 24, 2020

Topics: Quote of the Day

By William Cummings
USA TODAY, August 23, 2020

Americans view the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and the effectiveness of the government’s response through a very partisan lens, a CBS News/YouGov poll released Sunday found.

More than 176,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19. According to the poll, a 57% majority of registered Republican voters consider that number “acceptable” when “evaluating the U.S. efforts against the coronavirus pandemic,” compared with 31% of voters overall. Ninety percent of Democrats and 67% of independents said the death toll was “unacceptable.”

When asked about the survey Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” and why there was such a discrepancy between how Republicans other voters view the pandemic, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said it was “a really unfair poll.”

“Republicans do not want to see people suffering from this pandemic. We have all been affected by this. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue,” McDaniel said.


CBS News Battleground Tracker – YouGov, August 19-21, 2020
Sample 2,226 Registered Voters, Margin of Error ±2.4%

15. In evaluating the U.S. efforts against the coronavirus pandemic, do you consider the number of U.S. fatalities from coronavirus so far to be…


  • 8% Acceptable
  • 92% Unacceptable


  • 26% Acceptable
  • 74% Unacceptable


  • 57% Acceptable
  • 43% Unacceptable


  • 10% Acceptable
  • 90% Unacceptable


  • 33% Acceptable
  • 67% Unacceptable


  • 57% Acceptable
  • 43% Unacceptable


The White House, Press Briefing, March 23, 2020

President Trump: We have jobs, we have — people get tremendous anxiety and depression, and you have suicides over things like this when you have terrible economies. You have death. Probably and — I mean, definitely would be in far greater numbers than the numbers that we’re talking about with regard to the virus.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

It is absolutely shocking that 8% of liberals and 10% of Democrats find the number of U.S. fatalities from coronavirus to be acceptable. But 57% of conservatives and 57% of Republicans – over half – do find such deaths to be acceptable. Really? Professing to be the pro-life party, this comes as a quite a revelation.

In defense, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said this was “a really unfair poll.” How is that? Reviewing the entire poll to see what might be unfair, a couple of points can be made. One is that those polled were not told that the number of deaths was 176,000, but if withholding that fact was unfair, it would suggest that 90% of Democrats would find any coronavirus deaths to be unacceptable whereas 57% of Republicans would tolerate a much larger number of deaths.

Two questions earlier, over half of the Republicans and conservatives rated Donald Trump as doing a “very good” job in handling the coronavirus outbreak. The question on fatalities was qualified by, “In evaluating the U.S. efforts against the coronavirus pandemic…” Since the majority of Republicans responding had already said that Trump was doing a very good job with the pandemic, it made it more difficult for them to agree that the number of deaths was unacceptable. Perhaps the Republicans felt that this was entrapment and thus made the poll unfair.

Also, the view was often expressed by Trump’s advisers and the conservative media, especially Fox, that the damage to the economy was greater than the damage caused by the virus, and thus it was more important to “open up” the economy in spite of reported death rates. Even Donald Trump expressed the view that deaths from a terrible economy “definitely would be in far greater numbers than the numbers that we’re talking about with regard to the virus.”

Regardless, comparing the morality of an allegedly unfair poll with that of 176,000 deaths, there is no contest. We should elect politicians who understand the difference.

PNHP does not endorse any political parties nor any candidates for political office; rather we endorse health care justice for all.

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About the Commentator, Don McCanne

Don McCanne is a retired family practitioner who dedicated the 2nd phase of his career to speaking and writing extensively on single payer and related issues. He served as Physicians for a National Health Program president in 2002 and 2003, then as Senior Health Policy Fellow. For two decades, Don wrote "Quote of the Day", a daily health policy update which inspired HJM.

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