Politicians seldom take major, risky steps without knowing that public opinion is behind them, and that makes the decisions by governors to reopen all the stranger. As I have written, public opinion is astonishingly united behind social-distancing measures. Across party lines and geographic regions, Americans think that caution is prudent and restrictions are smart. They believe wearing a face mask is more about public health than personal choice. And they hold these views even, or especially, when it means personal sacrifice.
It is true that the partisan divide on anti-coronavirus measures has been growing in recent days. Yet what this polling suggests is not the typical Democrats-versus-Republicans split, but instead a difference of opinion within the Republican Party. And even then, governors of both parties are, in many specific instances, embracing a minority opinion within their party.
The haste to reopen, in defiance of medical expertise, economic data, and public opinion, is thus peculiar. The most obvious possibility is that it is a testament to the power of the presidential bully pulpit and intense media coverage.