(NewsNation) — The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the global economy and contributed to the deaths of over one million Americans, so you’d think it would be a top concern ahead of the midterm elections.
However, a Pew Research Center survey found the coronavirus pandemic ranks 15th among issues voters identified as most important to them. Polls by NewsNation similarly identified inflation as the top concern over COVID.
So, will the pandemic make a difference in the midterms?
It should be particularly relevant to state leaders who were allowed to make their own decisions on CDC recommended measures like shutdowns, school closures and vaccine mandates, which became major political fault lines.
One state which gained national attention for its policies is Florida, where Republican Governor Ron DeSantis remains a staunch opponent of restrictions as part of his so-called “Freedom Agenda.”
“I made sure you can earn a living. I made sure you could operate your businesses. And I worked like heck to make sure we had all our kids in school in-person five days a week,” DeSantis said during a gubernatorial debate with Democratic rival Charlie Crist on Monday.
DeSantis and other Florida GOP candidates who backed more relaxed COVID policies are all leading in the polls. While their opposition to lockdowns and vaccine mandates were key parts of their campaigns earlier this year, they’ve shifted focus to the economy and crime.
Democrats in Florida and across the country have largely avoided talking about the pandemic in recent weeks, even as experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci insist shutdowns and other measures did save lives.
“I would have listened to scientists unlike the governor,” Crist said during Monday’s debate. “We’ve lost 82,000 of our fellow Floridians.” (Fact Check)
Democrats’ reluctance to bring up the pandemic on the campaign trail could be explained in part by a recent study by the Pew Research Center, which found that 56% of Americans think President Biden has done an only fair or poor job responding to the pandemic.
Regardless of the role of COVID policies on voters’ choices, their larger effects — from growing inflation to rising crime — are top concerns.
Thus, while politicians’ handling of the pandemic may not be a primary consideration heading into the midterm elections, in many ways COVID is still at the top of the ticket.