As the country grapples with a united approach to battling the COVID-19 pandemic, feelings about the government’s response to the outbreak clearly break along partisan lines, according to the third in a series of Political Sentiment Polls, conducted by the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.
The poll measures emotional response, including emotional temperature, to candidates and key issues, gauging their appeal, level of engagement with the candidates and feelings of empowerment. Understanding emotional responses taps into why people think and act the way they do and are highly predictive of behavior.
As of early March, in the earlier days of the outbreak in the U.S., Republicans’ feelings about the government’s response to COVID-19 was slightly above average. Democrats, meanwhile, were slightly below average and Independents’ feelings were right in the middle of Democrats and Republicans.
The poll asked a series of healthcare related issues, where there was more commonality among all three groups. Democrats, Republicans and Independents were all above average in their feelings about the need to include pre-existing conditions for health insurance. This issue elicited the most positive feelings for Independents and the second most positive feelings for Republicans among all of the issues addressed.
There was also commonality on feelings about healthcare quality, health insurance costs and insurance companies overall. All three issues were near the bottom of the Emotional Temperature gauge for Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Republicans were slightly more positive in their feelings than the other groups, but still below average.
The groups split on issues of “Medicare for All” and universal healthcare. Both Democrats and Independents were well above average in their feelings about both issues, suggesting this could be an important platform for all candidates in this year’s election. Republicans were slightly below average in their feelings for both.
The poll also asked how respondents felt about the idea of a female president. All three groups felt above average about the prospects of a woman in the Oval Office, with Independents feeling most positive about the prospect, findings that could validate former Vice President Joe Biden’s pledge to name a female vice president.
However, voters split around other women’s issues. When asked about the way women are treated in U.S. society today, Democrats were not particularly positive about their treatment, while Republicans felt very positive. Independents feelings were average. How women are treated elicited the most positive feelings by Republicans of any of the issues addressed.
On the question about a woman’s right to choose, Democrats and Independents were well above average in their feelings while Republicans were, somewhat surprisingly, average. In fact, for Independents, a woman’s right to choose was the second highest issue in terms of positive feelings.
The poll, conducted on March 8 among 200 voters nationwide, asked about 26 “Unsettled Matters,” issues confronting voters in 2020.