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WorldUS polls: Covid impact uncertain

US polls: Covid impact uncertain

Published: 3rd Oct 2020 11:55 pm

Hyderabad: It’s still too early to predict whether the Covid-19 pandemic will have any impact on the United States Presidential election to be held on November 3, experts say. At the same time, they feel Trump’s handling of the situation might not help him at all.

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Speaking to a select group of 225 journalists from across the world who are ‘remotely covering’ the 2020 US elections as part of a virtual programme facilitated by the US Department of State and the Meridian International Center, experts and political analysts said it could be a little too early to say whether Covid-19 would have an impact, as “strange” as it would sound, given President Donald J Trump’s rhetoric and handling of the pandemic.

Talking at a briefing on ‘Political Parties and Issues’, Jeffrey M Stonecash, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, said the reactions to Trump’s management of the situation were “very negative”.

“If it continues to rise, that effect will persist and could get worse. How Covid will affect voting is simply unknown. Will Republicans, older and more vulnerable, risk showing up? All unknown,” he said.

On the other hand, Mark J Rozell, Founding Dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, talking at a briefing on an ‘Intro to the US Electoral System’, said there was evidence in polls that the President had seen a drop in support among senior citizens — people who are the most medically at risk for Covid-19. Since support among senior citizens was strong for him in 2016, that’s a real concern to his campaign, Dr Rozell said.

In response to a query from ‘Telangana Today’, Dr Rozell said he did not believe that Trump was helped at all by his handling of the pandemic. “Indeed, polls show that he has lost some significant support among older Americans during the pandemic — people who are the most medically vulnerable. But most of Trump’s followers simply do not blame him for the nation’s failure to control the virus. They blame China, they blame Democratic Party state and local leaders, and even some of them say the danger from the pandemic is overstated,” he said.

The pandemic would, however, be a major factor, Dr Rozell indicated, stating that because of the pandemic, there was much more voting by mail this year and also early voting so that voting in person could be staggered over time, so as to minimise the risk to people.

“So what’s going to happen on election night? Results will be coming in based on people who voted in person the traditional way on November 3, the election day. But counting of the mail ballots will take a few, perhaps several days, perhaps even longer. We’ve not done this before. Therefore, we will not know most likely the result of the election on the election night itself as had always been the case,” he said.

Joe Biden supporters, the Democrats, based on polling data tend to be much more likely to vote by mail and if voting in person, wear a mask while Trump supporters, statistically, are more likely to vote on the election day and less likely to wear masks in public.

“It’s strange that we’re talking about the pandemic as having a political impact, but it is possible that the election results as they’re coming in on the election night will show Trump winning all over the place, but that’s based on more of his voters showing up to vote in person. Then as the results come in from the mailed-in ballots, his margin is going to narrow, and perhaps be overtaken by Biden after several days. So it may take some time to really know who’s going to win,” Dr Rozell said, pointing out that moreover, the Electoral College would meet only in December.

“So this process is not going to have any impact at all on what the electors do when they vote in the Electoral College,” he added.

As for Indian-origin voters, experts felt it was complicated in the current circumstances to predict their leanings. “They are high achievers and might gravitate to Trump. But his bashing of anyone different is surely alienating many of them,” they said.

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