Republicans less worried about coronavirus after Trump minimized it for weeks

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In a span of six weeks, a majority of Republicans went from believing coronavirus was a real threat to saying the threat was blown out of proportion.

Following weeks of Donald Trump and other Republican lawmakers downplaying the significance of the coronavirus outbreak, polling shows Republicans went from believing it was a threat to saying the threat was overhyped. 

In an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll taken on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, Americans across the political spectrum were on the same page, with 72% of Republicans and 70% of Democrats believing the coronavirus outbreak was "a real threat."

Less than a quarter of each group believed the threat was "blown out of proportion" at that time.

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Within six weeks, the opinion among most Republicans has drastically changed.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll taken March 13 and 14 showed a majority of Republicans, or 54%, now viewed the threat from coronavirus as being blown out of proportion, with only 40% believing it to be real.

Over the same period of time, Democrats became more convinced the coronavirus was a serious issue, with an increase from 70% to 76% of them saying it was a real threat, and a decrease to only 20% believing it is overblown.

The recent poll also showed 74% of Republicans trusted what Trump said about the coronavirus outbreak, compared to just 8% of Democrats. Just 36% of Republicans trusted the media on coronavirus, compared to 64% of Democrats.

During the time between the two polls, Trump repeatedly told Americans that the situation was both under control and no big deal.

"Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China," Trump said about coronavirus on Feb. 2, two days after implementing travel restrictions on travelers coming from China, where the new coronavirus was first reported. "So we're gonna see what happens, but we did shut it down, yes."

A week later, on Feb. 10, Trump said warm weather would put an end to the new coronavirus.

"A lot of people think that goes away in April as the heat comes in," Trump said, adding, "We're in great shape though. We have 12 cases, 11 cases, and many of them are in good shape." (Scientists have said there's not enough evidence to make such a claim.)

On Feb. 24, Trump both downplayed the growing threat and tried to calm a jittery stock market.

"The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA," Trump tweeted. "Stock Market starting to look very good to me!"

A couple of days later, on Feb. 26, Trump said, "When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That's a pretty good job we've done."

The Washington Post reported that, rather than the number going down, there were 100 confirmed cases within five days of this statement. Two weeks later, there were 1,000 confirmed cases and at least 28 deaths.

On Feb. 28, Trump went so far as to claim Democrats who were concerned about the growing threat from coronavirus were perpetrating "a new hoax" to make him look bad.

Even well into March, Trump continued to dismiss concerns about the growing pandemic. "And we're prepared, and we're doing a great job with it," Trump said on March 10. "And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away."

But the day after Trump said it would go away, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global health pandemic.

On March 13, the day the second NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll was put into the field, Trump finally declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a national emergency.

And according to the most recent poll, more Republicans than ever believe concerns about it are overblown.

As of March 17, more than 4,000 Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and at least 75 people in the U.S. have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.