CNBC reported that:

[Dan] Patrick, the Texas lieutenant governor, said Monday on Fox News, “As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren? And if that is the exchange, I’m all in.”

Apparently on the same show another fairly high profile US politician said

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): For a small segment of our population, it's true, the coronavirus can kill you. For a small segment.

But you know what else can kill you? Poverty. Hunger. Losing the entire economy.

And we need to stop thinking about the next election and try to think a little more about the next generation and what we leave to them, which is going to be the little end of nothing if we let this economy collapse.

According to CNN:

The often-dismissive messaging from Fox News hosts was notable, given that the viewers who make up the network's audience skew older and are thus more vulnerable to the disease.

Polls from both Gallup and Pew Research revealed that Republicans — who are largely distrustful of mainstream news organizations and primarily turn to Fox News and other right-wing sources for information on current events — were much less likely to take the risks of the coronavirus as seriously as their Democratic counterparts.

Of course, this being a rather emotionally charged judgement, it probably matters a lot how one phrases such a question/choice. Still, I want to know if there any surveys in the US on how much the public sees the mortality risk posed by COVID-19 (which as we know is most elevated for the elderly) as acceptable in balance with preserving the "American way of life", "keeping America great", or some other equivalently formulated socioeconomic normality [for the US]?

Please note that I'm not endorsing those views... but they do exist in various shapes, e.g.

As fears of COVID-19 spread, so too have ageist messages suggesting that the coronavirus is a disease of the old, with internet memes referring to the virus as a ‘boomer remover.’

On the less frivolous side, the NYT has an article [sub]titled: "Shutdown Spotlights Economic Cost of Saving Lives. President Trump and others have asked if halting normal life and commerce to fight the coronavirus is worth the cost. Here’s how economists figure it. [...]

“Economists should be doing this cost-benefit analysis,” said Walter Scheidel, an economic historian at Stanford University. “Why is nobody putting some numbers on the economic costs of a monthlong or a yearlong shutdown against the lives saved? The whole discipline is well equipped for it. But there is some reluctance for people to stick their neck out.”

(For more on economics aspects of the crisis, see this econ SE question.)

So I think I'm well justified in asking this question, i.e. how widespread such views might be, especially when it comes to making a [hard] choice.

  • 2
    This is a well-constructed question with fairly balanced background materials but the view from CNN, which was purely driven by political and rivalry fights. I think it will be better not to include it.
    – r13
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 22:06

1 Answer 1


In the most recent polls I found (and there are a helluva lot of polls on coronavirus in the US) from March 26:

About seven-in-ten adults (71%) say that to address the coronavirus, it is necessary to require most businesses other than grocery stores or pharmacies to close. A larger share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (81%) than Republicans and GOP leaners (61%) view this requirement as necessary.

So most are (now) approving of not-business-as-usual measures to combat the epidemic. Actually, a bit later, this Pew poll details the public response to a few more specific measures, although this is aftery had been anounced/implemented:

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As some [polling] pundits predicted a week ago after commenting on those old-by-now polls (of March 20 or so):

Pew shows that 59% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the "outbreak is a major threat to the health of the U.S. population as a whole," while only 33% of Republicans and Republican leaners agree.

It is certainly possible that this significant partisan gap in views of the coronavirus situation will narrow in the weeks ahead. Partisans take cues from the statements of their leaders, and Trump and other Republican politicians initially were publicly skeptical of the significance of the virus, in some instances claiming that it reflected a partisan effort by Democrats and "the media" to criticize Trump. Now, Trump and his allies have begun to move away from that previous posture and are at the forefront of proclaiming the seriousness of the crisis. As media observers have noted, this in turn has brought about shifts in the tone of the coverage by Fox News, and these shifts may narrow the partisanship gap in the days and weeks to come if rank-and-file Republicans follow the cues given by their favored thought leaders.

  • 1
    538 shows the partisan gap in worry about infection narrowing from March 15-17 to 22-24 with Republican worry increasing by 11 points
    – divibisan
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 22:50
  • 2
    @divibisan: I can quite put this in my answer, but an interesting comment there (538): "The fact that more Americans are worried about the effect of the coronavirus on the economy than about their own health may put pressure on politicians to kickstart the economy, making it harder for public health officials to push for preventive measures like social distancing." It would nice some poll actually asked a more head-on question like that. Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 23:04
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    Would be interesting to see how this changed over the course of the pandemic. Commented Jun 10, 2021 at 19:32
  • It’s important to note the data is from March of 2020 (not just March 20th). Perceptions have changed drastically since then. Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 20:19

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