Partisan divide over whether worst is yet to come or behind us

According to a CNN poll released this week, nearly three-quarters of Democrats said the worst of the crisis is still ahead of us, while only about a quarter of Republicans said the same. This marked a 15 percentage-point drop among Democrats since CNN last asked the question in April, and a 44-point drop among Republicans. A YouGov/Economist poll also found a similar divide this week; 58 percent of Democrats said the pandemic is going to get worse compared with only 20 percent of Republicans. (The pollster included a third choice, “We are currently in the worst part of the pandemic,” which just over 20 percent of both Democrats and Republicans chose.) And a daily tracking poll conducted by Navigator Research also found that between mid-April and early May, the share of Americans who thought the worst was yet to come declined sharply. However, that number has been ticking back up again since May 4, which may reflect increased concern that the virus will spread as more states begin to ease restrictions on businesses and public gatherings.

The polls this week also show that Americans are adjusting their expectations about when the need for social distancing is likely to end. According to the Washington Post/University of Maryland poll, two-thirds of Americans think that it will be at least the end of July before people can safely gather in groups of 10 or more, up from 45 percent who thought so a month ago. This month’s total includes 80 percent of Democrats and 54 of Republicans. And this week’s YouGov/Economist poll found that a 47 percent plurality — including a third of Republicans and almost two-thirds of Democrats — believe it will be at least September before it is safe to end social distancing measures.