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Coronavirus is no longer a top issue for Americans. That’s good news for Republicans

This week was more of a normal week for news — something we haven’t had in a long time. A Hollywood story broke through the headlines, as Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars became fodder for newscasts throughout the country.

Indeed, a story that might have made waves months ago — the government authorizing a fourth Covid-19 vaccine for adults 50 and over — barely made a dent. The fact that the coronavirus pandemic, now in its third year, is no longer a top news story is where we begin this week’s statistical journey.



 

Americans don’t care about the coronavirus anymore

For about two years, the popularity of the president (whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden) was tied to how he was handling the coronavirus pandemic. Then a funny thing happened. As Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths started falling over the last few months, Biden’s approval rating on the pandemic went up while his overall approval rating stayed flat.

Why?

A recent Gallup poll gives us good insight. Just 3% of Americans said the coronavirus or diseases are the top problem facing the country. That’s less than half the previous low for this answer (8%), which occurred in mid-2021 when case rates were also falling.

Two years ago (April 2020), a record 45% said the coronavirus was the top problem in the country. It’s not surprising that we’re nowhere near that level anymore. Still, I had to take a step back when I saw that 3%.

In January, 20% of Americans said the coronavirus was the most important problem facing the country.

The Gallup poll isn’t the only one to show that the significance of the pandemic in the minds of Americans has fallen dramatically. A recent NBC News poll also found that just 3% said the coronavirus was the most important issue facing the country.

The public is not alone in caring less about the pandemic than ever before. Cable news had fewer mentions of “covid” in March (less than 2,700) than in any month since the beginning of the pandemic. At its peak, there were over 17,000 monthly mentions of “covid” on cable news.

This shift in coronavirus coverage likely helps Republicans. The pandemic has been one of Biden’s best issues. In the NBC News poll, more Americans approved of Biden on the coronavirus (51%) than on any other issue.

But an ABC News-Washington Post poll from February showed that about as many voters (42%) trusted the Democrats on the coronavirus as they did Republicans (39%).

Compare how Americans feel about the coronavirus with how they feel about the economy. Economic problems are now cited by more Americans as the top issue (35%) than any other problem, according to Gallup.

Biden’s approval on the economy was 33%, per the NBC News poll. (Sixty-three percent disapproved.) Voters trusted the Republican Party as best to handle the economy by 20 points (55% to 35% for Democrats), according to the ABC News-Washington Post survey.

A midterm election fought on the economy and issues related to it (e.g., inflation) is an election Republicans are in a stronger position to win. And given the recent midterm indicators, Republicans will likely do very well in November.

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