Tuesday, August 17, 2021


Greg Sargent is predicting the Republicans' doom again.
The latest GOP anti-mask lunacy is stirring a backlash. New polling reveals it.

The other day, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis likened mask and other health mandates to “medical authoritarianism.” The Republican added that we may be witnessing “the most significant threat to freedom in my lifetime, certainly since the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

Because DeSantis was speaking in the hermetically sealed-off information universe of Fox News, such drivel was certain to elicit approval. But outside of that universe — with DeSantis and Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott actively thwarting local officials from protecting their constituents with mask mandates — a backlash to these antics may be brewing.

A new Axios-Ipsos poll probes public sentiments on this in a novel way. It asks respondents about state laws that prohibit local officials from creating mask requirements. Both DeSantis and Abbott have sought to do this, albeit by executive order.

The result: 66 percent of Americans oppose such state laws, and only 33 percent support them. What’s more, the poll also finds that a whopping 77 percent oppose efforts to withhold funding from school districts and local governments that implement mask mandates.

This fills in our understanding of public opinion. Polling has already shown that large majorities favor mask mandates when asked. This new data shows that equally large majorities oppose efforts by governors to actively prevent local officials from implementing such measures.
There's just one problem: Where's the backlash?

I'm aware that a recent survey from St. Pete Polls showed DeSantis with a negative job approval rating. But he wasn't very far underwater: He was at 44% approval, 49% disapproval.

In the same survey, 62% of respondents said that masks should be required in schools. Which means that at least 13% of Floridians approve of school mask mandates but don't disapprove of a governor who's made them illegal. (And keep in mind that a recent Florida Chamber of Commerce poll showed DeSantis with a 54% approval rating.)

Greg Abbott? His approval/disapproval numbers in February 2020 were 48%/34%, according to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll; in March 2021, they dropped to 45%/43%. They were 43%/45% in April and 44%/44% in June. So we seem to have found Abbott's floor: approximately equal approval and disapproval.

Most Texans support measures requiring all eligible people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a recent survey.

More than 65 percent of Texans said they would support vaccine mandates issued by federal, state or local governments; the national average was 64 percent. More than 70 percent of Texans would support vaccine requirements to board an airplane; more than 62 percent would support vaccine mandates for children returning to schools; and 67 percent would support them for students returning to universities.
Those numbers are from August. Will the disapproval numbers for Abbott, who seems to oppose all pandemic mitigation measures, tank as a result?

It's not happening to DeSantis, so why should it happen to Abbott? For Republican voters, tribalism invariably trumps issue politics.

Bruce Bartlett, a disaffected ex-Republican, tweets:

Bartlett's second sentence is right, but because Democrats aren't being aggressive as he recommends, his first sentence is wrong. It's possible that nothing would make even reasonably sensible Republican-leaning voters vote against their party. But Democrats aren't trying very hard to attack Republicans for recklessly enabling disease, so I guess we'll never know.

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