What people are thinking a week out from Election Day

What people are thinking a week out from Election Day

- in Top Story, Weekly Briefing
Image: Adobe Stock

“Just make it end!” That’s what many Americans are thinking and saying right now about a lot of things: the election marathon, the pandemic, this calendar year, and for many, the whole toxic political era that the nation has endured in recent years.

Such feelings are, of course, not universal. For a loud minority – especially on the far right – there is a craving for conflict, macho posturing and even violence in responding to the current tough times that grip the nation and the planet.

And, yes, on the far left too, there are a handful of misguided souls who believe that the only way to cure the many ills that afflict us is by razing societal structures and systems that they see as plagued by greed, corruption and prejudice.

For a large majority, however, there remains a strong desire to move beyond this era of death and despair, conflict and crazy conspiracy theories. This group rejects fanciful talk of restoring “good ol’ days” that, for many, never existed or somehow ushering in change (or resisting progress) at the end of a gun barrel. Moreover, they understand that there is no way to successfully tackle the challenges we confront operating exclusively as individuals or merely at the direction of corporate and/or religious leaders.

No, most Americans and North Carolinians want to get on with the work of coming together via democratic institutions to preserve the many good things we have created, tackling the many dreadful failures and misdeeds for which we are responsible, and figuring out a way to make life on our fragile and wounded planet sustainable (and maybe even meaningful and fulfilling) for our children and grandchildren.

Just days prior to Election Day 2020, we are a sober and anything but cocky lot, but we haven’t given up hope for a better and freer future marked by shared sacrifice and common good public policies. We are willing to confront the facts and hard data, do the math, and get to work.

All of these hopeful signs are discernible in the polling results released in North Carolina of late – particularly with respect to the issue that overshadows so much of life in this difficult year: the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to question after question, North Carolinians have made it clear that they have not given up or resigned themselves to relying upon blind faith.

As the Elon University Poll reported a couple weeks back:

The majority of North Carolina residents back using a go-slow approach to reopening public schools and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic….Only 28% of respondents said the timing of the state’s phased reopening of businesses has been too slow. Also, 28% said the state’s coronavirus rules and regulations have been too restrictive. The majority of respondents felt the state’s response was just right or wasn’t restrictive enough.”

More than half of respondents gave the Trump administration a ‘D’ of ‘F’ (43% the latter) for its scattered and ineffective handling of the crisis.

Similarly, a Spectrum News/IPSOS poll released last week found 64% of North Carolinians believe “there should be a state law mandating masks be worn at all times in public.” Similarly, only 33% of those surveyed though that “COVID-19 lockdowns in my community have been too restrictive.”

Meanwhile, a Meredith College poll released last Friday found similar results. As Clayton Henkel of NC Policy Watch reported:

Almost two-thirds of respondents (65.6%)…said the government’s response to the pandemic was a significant factor in who they are voting for this year.

And with cases of COVID-19 rising across the state and nation, a majority of North Carolinians (57.9%) favor the Affordable Care Act.

Eighty-three percent (83.4%) of those polled said they wanted the federal government to pass another stimulus package to help deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Interestingly, one of the few sobering findings evident in recent polls seems to be born from concerns that normally trusted public structures and institutions will not be allowed to do their jobs. The Spectrum/IPSOS poll found that only 38% of North Carolinians were certain that would take the first generation COVID-19 vaccine when it is approved by the FDA – a statistic that coincides with a recent finding in a national Kaiser Family Foundation poll that “Many (62%) are worried that the political pressure from the Trump administration will lead the FDA to rush to approve a coronavirus vaccine without making sure that it is safe and effective….”

One imagines and hopes, however, that such a sobering number would change dramatically under either a Biden administration or a second Trump administration that altered its rhetoric and behavior in response to a genuine scientific breakthrough.

The bottom line: The year 2020 has been dreadful so far, but as the polls indicate (including the most encouraging “polling” result of recent days – the massive early voting turnout), most Americans have not given up. One trusts this fact will be evident in the elections results we see next week.