Coronavirus Lockdowns Are Increasingly Unpopular | Opinion

Ronald Reagan famously declared that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." Those words resonate with many during a time when some governments are aggressively enforcing efforts that seek to prevent society from re-opening. Polling I conducted this past weekend found that 52 percent of voters share Reagan's view of how terrifying government "help" can be. Only 35 percent disagree.

Initially, of course, there was strong support for the lockdowns. But a backlash is brewing. Forty-one percent of voters have already come to believe that the lockdowns did more harm than good. Barely two months into the lockdown, only 51 percent disagree with that assessment. As the economic trauma continues, those numbers are almost certain to shift and cast the initial lockdowns in an even less favorable light.

Looking ahead, the data reveal another perspective Reagan applauded: confidence in the commonsense wisdom of the American people. When it comes to making decisions about re-opening, just 34 percent of voters trust government officials more than everyday Americans. Let's face it, it's hard to have confidence in government decision-making when decisions about which businesses can open seem either irrational or blatantly political. That's one reason why more voters—43 percent—place their trust in the general public.

Voters have a simpler solution, one rooted in America's traditions of self-government, equality and individual freedom. Sixty percent of voters nationwide believe that all businesses—ALL businesses—should be allowed to re-open if they adopt appropriate social distancing protocols. Only 26 percent disagree. The reality, of course, is that means everyday Americans will decide what sort of social distancing is appropriate. They—not government officials—will make decisions about which businesses are safe enough to visit and which are not.

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Despite the fact that the public is anxious to re-open society, several Democratic governors are desperately clinging to their lockdown policies. Their efforts could help ensure the re-election of Donald Trump. That's especially true because three of the governors doubling down on lockdowns are in the critical battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Those three formerly Democratic states pushed Trump over the top in 2016, and they are essential to any plans for putting a Democrat into the White House.

However, much media coverage and political chatter seems to suggest that President Trump's push to re-open society is reckless and politically harmful. Those pushing back against the lockdowns are often painted as constituting a fringe movement.

Why is this happening? Probably for the same reasons that they missed what was happening in 2016. Professional elites have a hard time understanding the rest of America.

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump Doug Mills/The New York Times-Pool/Getty Images

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On the core issue of who do you trust, upper-income Americans, government employees, college graduates and Democrats alike are all more comfortable with the government making sweeping decisions. The reverse is true for lower- and middle-income Americans, private sector workers, retirees, those without a college degree, Republicans and independents.

President Trump instinctively understands that latter group far better than do his manifold critics.

By a 64 percent to 32 percent margin, those upper-income voters still think the lockdowns have done more good than harm. They can't understand why voters rallied around a Texas woman who was jailed for opening her salon in defiance of a government order. Lower-income voters are evenly divided as to whether the lockdowns have done more harm than good.

Peggy Noonan picked up on this divide in her insightful column last week. "There is a class divide between those who are hard-line on lockdowns and those who are pushing back. We see the professionals on one side...and regular people on the other." The professionals have been dismissive of those who want to move forward and re-open society, reflecting a condescending attitude towards the "deplorables" that played such a memorable role four years ago.

Rather than having government map out how we should move forward, voters want to make the choices themselves. They clearly recognize a government role in the process, and it's a fairly straightforward role: 64 percent of voters believe that if governments shut down a business, they should compensate the owners for their losses. They broke it, they bought it. Then, let the businesses open and let the people decide.

Scott Rasmussen is an independent public opinion pollster and editor-at-large for Ballotpedia. All data referred to in this column can be found at ScottRasmussen.com.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

Coronavirus Lockdowns Are Increasingly Unpopular | Opinion | Opinion