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Why is the COVID-19 pandemic a partisan issue?

Our view of the pandemic can be quite different depending on where you stand politically.

ATLANTA — The nation’s political divide is evident in a variety of issues that include the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our view of the pandemic can be quite different depending on where you stand politically. There is a wide divide between people who identify as Democrats and those who favor Republicans.

A Pew Research survey found 85% of the Democrats questioned believe the pandemic is a major health threat while 46% of Republicans see it that way. You’ll find similar disparities when it comes to masks and lockdowns.

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Political divide is nothing new.

“We don’t just see it on COVID,” said Joseph Watson, Professor of Public Affairs at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism. “COVID just happens to be what’s dominating the public’s attention.”

Watson said the COVID-19 pandemic comes as the nation’s divide is growing.

“We’re in an increasingly polarized political environment,” said Watson. “If one side says one thing, a segment of people is going to take the opposite position almost reflexively.”

During the Great Depression, the parties were divided over how to help Americans survive. Democrats wanted to increase the government’s involvement while Republicans opposed.

Watson said people who favor the Republican Party tend to be more suspicious of the government and are more likely to push back against mask mandates and restrictions on businesses.

“Conservatives and Republicans have baked in an increased focus on individual rights and individual liberties,” said Watson. “Things that appear to encroach on that are met with a lot more distrust.”

A separate Pew Research study found 60% of Democrats believes the pandemic will have a permanent impact on their lives while 40% of the Republicans questioned feel that way.


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