Poll links virus fears to political affiliation The Chandler Arizonan

Poll links virus fears to political affiliation

Poll links virus fears to political affiliation
City News
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By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

How scared Arizonans are of COVID-19 could depend on their political affiliation.

A new statewide poll finds that just 32 percent of people who identify as Republicans say they are at least moderately concerned about the spread of the coronavirus in Arizona. That’s down a full 10 points from the same time last month and is 23 points less when concerns hit their peak in April.

By contrast, 85 percent of Democrats say they are extremely or moderately concerned about how the virus is spreading in the state.

And what’s more significant is that figure actually is three points higher than in April.

Pollster Mike Noble of OH Predictive Insights said the numbers highlight what has become an increasingly partisan view of the risk of a disease that he said does not discriminate based on race, religious and party lines.

Yet, he said, it shows the kind of political polarization that appears to be surfacing on many other issues.

The survey comes as state health officials said Wednesday there were 6,369 in-patient hospital beds in use, whether by COVID-19 patients or others. That amounts to a record 83 percent, the highest level since the pandemic began.

Ducey’s press aide Patrick Ptak said hospitals remain under an executive order banning them from doing elective surgery.

He acknowledged that hospitals have been conducting non-essential surgeries since the governor modified his directive in April.

But Ptak said that permission always has been under the condition of being able to show not only bed capacity but also sufficient supplies of equipment like masks, gowns and gloves.

And he said it is up to each hospital to curb elective procedures when they cannot meet the conditions.

There were 1,274 of those beds in use by people with a positive or suspected COVID-19 diagnosis, the second highest figure since records were released.

ICU bed use by coronavirus patients at 413, with a record 846 patients seen in emergency rooms.

Overall, the health department reported another 1,556 new cases, bringing the statewide total to 29,582. There also were 25 deaths, putting the tally at 1,095.

Noble said the key to the partisan divide may be the messaging that comes from leaders of both parties.

“For example, when you’re talking about the whole ‘fake news’ thing, when you’re looking among Republicans they’re the ones that probably believe that the most ,’’ he said.

“Well, who’s talking about that?’’ Noble continued. “Trump. And he’s got a massive megaphone.’’

He said this partisan divide on COVID-19 is not just here in Arizona.

Overall, Noble said, it has largely been the states with Democratic leaders that have imposed the greatest restrictions in efforts to curb the spread of the virus. By contrast, he said, states led by Republicans also are “health conscious, but, hey, we need to get the economy back on track.’’

Noble conducted the survey of 600 likely voters last week, about two weeks after Gov. Doug Ducey dissolved his stay-at-home order and lifted closures for most businesses, albeit with recommendations on things like social distancing.

But even at that point, he found that 49 percent of those asked still believed the state is acting too quickly in removing restrictions, versus 34 percent who contend the state is moving too slowly and is risking hurting the economy.

Yet 19 percent of those questioned strongly approve of how Ducey is handling the COVID-19 situation, with another 40 percent saying they somewhat approve.

Noble said that may change when he does his next survey the first week of July. He pointed out there has been extensive publicity in the past week about a spike in the number of cases as well as a sharp increase in people hospitalized.

The survey consists of about 40 percent live calls and 60 percent automated responses and is considered to have a margin of error of 4.0 percent.

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