Saturday, April 11, 2020

Honesty pays

It does, when it comes to communications about the pandemic.

Heather Cox Richardson in her (Letters from an American) morning email reports some polling data for both Democratic and Republican governors who acted quickly and forcefully, and who communicated honestly with their constituents.

Excerpts follow (with emphases added by your Scriber).

Trump and his economic advisors seem to think that the president’s announcement that it is time to end social distancing and restart the economy, accepting the consequent increase in deaths, will help Trump’s popularity. But Trump’s blustering briefings are actually hurting his poll numbers rather than helping them. While he talks to the cameras, state governors are emerging as the nation’s leaders in this crisis, with approval ratings about 27% higher than Trump’s. And, as Paul Waldman noted in the Washington Post this evening, the governors who earn high marks are not the ones who have downplayed the crisis and refused to take necessary precautions. They are the ones who took strong steps early, and are being honest with their citizens.

This pattern has nothing to do with party. Democratic governors who have taken the coronavirus seriously are popular. According to an ABC News-Ipsos poll released today, governors like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, and California Governor Gavin Newsom are all popular, at 81%, 74%, and 79% respectively. But Republicans who have bucked the president are at least as popular as their Democratic colleagues. Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan and Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine, both Republicans, were proactive in shutting down their states while the president was downplaying the seriousness of the virus. Now Hogan’s approval rating is at 84% and DeWine’s at 83%. Trump’s approval is 33% in Maryland and 49% in Ohio. In Kentucky, a Republican stronghold, Democratic Governor Andy Beshear shut down his state quickly and has given popular factual daily briefings. Elected by just 5,000 votes last November, he now enjoys an 81% approval rate.

The popularity of politicians who are giving their constituents bad news and asking sacrifices of them seems to me to reveal a public craving for honesty from its politicians after three years of gaslighting. We are tired of having the ground shifting incomprehensibly under us and most of us want facts and reason in the face of deadly pandemic rather than a constantly shifting narrative.

And on that front, Congress is trying to get to the bottom of the confusion over the seizure of medical supplies and their subsequent redistribution, apparently for political ends. The heads of two House committees— the Committee on Homeland Security and the Committee on Oversight and Reform– have asked Peter Gaynor, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to explain the seizure of medical supplies from states. They have also asked him to clarify Jared Kushner’s role in handling supplies, especially given rumors that distribution depends on personal connections. They have asked FEMA to provide all documents related to these two issues by April 15.

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