top of page

GOP Politicians Are Striking Out On The Pandemic Again

Stupid And Stubborn-- art by Nancy Ohanian

YouGov did some polling on a handful of villains who have been in the news lately to see if the public has been paying attention. In most cases, respondents didn't know who the villains are well enough to have much of an opinion:

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

  • Favorable- 23%

  • Unfavorable- 33%

  • Don't Know- 43%

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

  • Favorable- 11%

  • Unfavorable- 67%

  • Don't Know- 22%

New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul

  • Favorable- 14%

  • Unfavorable- 15%

  • Don't Know- 71%

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

  • Favorable- 29%

  • Unfavorable- 36%

  • Don't Know- 35%

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

  • Favorable- 22%

  • Unfavorable- 32%

  • Don't Know- 46%

Kentucky Rand Paul

  • Favorable- 30%

  • Unfavorable- 36%

  • Don't Know- 34%

GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy

  • Favorable- 20%

  • Unfavorable- 42%

  • Don't Know- 38%

GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

  • Favorable- 18%

  • Unfavorable- 61%

  • Don't Know- 21%

Señor Trumpanzee

  • Favorable- 39%

  • Unfavorable- 53%

  • Don't Know- 7%

Democratic Party

  • Favorable- 41%

  • Unfavorable- 47%

  • Don't Know- 12%

Republican Party

  • Favorable- 32%

  • Unfavorable- 56%

  • Don't Know- 12%

But the most interesting series of questions YouGov asked about centered around vaccine mandates. The people polled were asked if various groups should or shouldn't be required to be vaccinated, presumably, though not stated explicitly, as a condition of continued employment.

Police officers

  • Should- 60%

  • Should not- 25%

  • Not sure- 16%

Members of the military

  • Should- 59%

  • Should not- 24%

  • Not sure- 17%

College students

  • Should- 55%

  • Should not- 27%

  • Not sure- 18%


  • Should- 61%

  • Should not- 24%

  • Not sure- 16%

Elementary school students

  • Should- 51%

  • Should not- 30%

  • Not sure- 18%

Medical providers (doctors, nurses, etc)

  • Should- 65%

  • Should not- 21%

  • Not sure- 14%

Federal employees

  • Should- 56%

  • Should not- 26%

  • Not sure- 18%

Writing for the Washington Post yesterday, Aaron Blake pointed out the obvious: ideological extremism and a desperate sense of contrarianism have backed the GOP into a minority corner with their base and their suck-up media pals. They're coming out as the pro-COVID party just as the pandemic is getting really bad, especially in areas with low vaccination rates. Americans generally back pandemic mitigation but the GOP followed Trump along an idiotic, vane path of opposing it.

"Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R)," wrote Blake, "announced Tuesday that schools that require masks won’t be eligible for a $163 million school grant program providing $1,800 per student. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) last week floated a similar idea-- though his would have deprived school officials of their actual salaries-- before backing off it. Polls of such ideas suggest that however popular vaccine mandates might be-- and however much people might have soured on mask mandates-- the support simply isn’t there, or anywhere close to there. Opposition to withholding funds over mask mandates might actually be more unifying than any other proposal involving mandates. An Axios-Ipsos poll this week showed that fully 77 percent of Americans opposed withholding funding from school districts or local governments that require masks, as DeSantis proposed and Ducey is now pursuing.

The other state in which a governor’s decisions on mandates are playing out in real time is California. There, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is facing a recall election, and he has been among the most forceful governors in the country on vaccine mandates, requiring either them or weekly tests for teachers.
It’s too simple to say that whether he’s recalled next month is a referendum on this policy-- given the dynamics of a highly unusual recall election-- but his push for vaccine mandates while his political future is in the balance suggests he believes this is a popular idea. He comes from a state in which at least 54 percent of people are fully vaccinated, according to Washington Post tracking, while would-be Republican successors are promising to repeal vaccine and mask mandates.
Trump’s M.O. throughout basically the entirety of his presidency was to focus on his base, even if the things he was pursuing were broadly unpopular. This has created an emboldened and passionate GOP base, but it’s also created a situation in which Republicans-- whether ambitious ones like DeSantis or simply those trying to respond to their supporters-- feel pressure to play to that base. To have a seat at the table in the national GOP right now is to oppose vaccine mandates-- which appear pretty strongly popular, and not just in the YouGov poll-- and not just fight mask mandates-- which many Americans oppose-- but to push the envelope in the fight against them.
The problem is that there is little evidence that the broader American public is clamoring for that envelope to be pushed, nor does it oppose targeted vaccine mandates with the gusto these efforts might suggest.
None of that means Americans will necessarily write off GOP politicians who support these policies. But it does reinforce the gamble at play: the brief base high followed by the unknown reaction from the broader public, which seems to be on quite a different page.
In other words: the Trump playbook that didn’t seem to work terribly well.

bottom of page