Black South Carolina Residents More Than Twice as Concerned About Coronavirus Than Whites, Poll Finds

Nearly 70 percent of black residents in South Carolina are "extremely concerned" about COVID-19 outbreaks in their community versus 27 percent of white South Carolinians who said the same, according to a new poll.

A majority of people in South Carolina, which reopened many of its businesses nearly three weeks ago on May 1, said they are dissatisfied with the coronavirus pandemic responses from both federal and local government officials. A new Clemson University "Palmetto Poll" found massive partisan political divides in regards to all things related to the pandemic, with 71 percent of Democrats expressing worry about becoming sick with COVID-19 compared to just 37 percent of the state's Republicans.

But South Carolina's concern along racial lines is far more jarring, with black residents being two-and-a-half times more likely to say they are deeply concerned about coronavirus than whites.

Despite wide gaps between Republicans and Democrats, South Carolina residents overall are more than twice as likely to say the state and federal government should be prioritizing public health over the economy amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Nonetheless, 86 percent of Republicans said they approve of President Donald Trump's handling of the pandemic versus just 3 percent of Democrats.

Clemson Associate Professor Steven Miller, who designed the coronavirus response survey, told Newsweek Tuesday that black South Carolina residents are "conspicuously more worried about contracting the virus." He said the poll reveals that "partisanship has become a worldview" through which Americans decide who to trust even in terms of their personal health.

About two-thirds of black South Carolinians surveyed (67 percent) said they are at least somewhat worried they could contact COVID-19, while just 46 percent of white residents said the same. Fewer than 2 percent of the state's estimated 1.33 million black residents said they are "not concerned at all" about the virus compared to about 10 percent of the state's 3.33 million white residents, according to the polling data.

Echoing racial and ethnic minority factors put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Miller told Newsweek that black South Carolinians are on average poorer and less likely to be able to work remotely.

Jaime Harrison, a black Democratic U.S. Senate candidate challenging longtime incumbent Republican Lindsey Graham, earlier this month posted to Twitter that 56 percent of those who have died as a result of the coronavirus in South Carolina were black despite only making up 27 percent of the state's overall population. The data Harrison shared was cited from a press release issued by the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission.

Miller told Newsweek that the "intensity of opinions" regarding COVID-19 in the state points to the power current political affiliations have over public health, particularly when the "T-word" (Trump) is factored into opinions over concern. But he added that the extreme concern expressed by black South Carolinians over the virus transcends the partisan data.

"Republicans are increasingly looking to Republican politicians for information and if their prevailing view from Trump and others is 'not a big deal, out of proportion,' they will adopt this opinion themselves," Miller said. "People attach themselves to a party and the party tells them how to think, welcome to the 21st Century of politics and public health."

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South Carolina residents are more than twice as likely to say the state and federal government should be prioritizing public health over the economy amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. DANIEL SLIM / Contributor/Getty Images