Restaurants are now for Republicans


If restaurants in your state reopen and you go for a bite, there’s a good chance everyone around you is a Republican.

With almost every state beginning to lift the restrictions on staying at home to stop the spread of the coronavirus, consumer attitudes to the next steps are surprisingly political. While just over half of Republicans and Democrats think their state is reopening at the right pace, Republicans are more likely to say it is going too slow and Democrats are more concerned that it is going too fast.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found gaps of more than 30 percentage points in activities that Republicans and Democrats are willing to do to ease the restrictions. The biggest gap was in eating out. 75% of the Rs, but only 39% of the Ds said they would eat in a restaurant over the next three months. Almost three quarters of the Republicans expect to visit a hair salon or salon, or to gather in a group of 10 or more, compared to only 43% of Democrats. Both groups are reluctant to travel, but 43% of Republicans plan to stay in a hotel this summer, compared to only 24% of Dems.

A similar poll by the Voter Study Group found that Republicans are more likely to participate in 14 different activities. The biggest gap was weddings, where Republicans (29 points) were more willing than Democrats to attend services (26 points), attended a funeral (22 points), ate in a restaurant (21 points), and had their hair cut ( 20 points).

Stan Morin gives Jeff McGee a haircut on May 21, 2020 at his barber shop in Plainville, Kan. Morin said he was two to three times busier than usual after reopening a week earlier after being closed in a store for two months, efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

Stan Morin gives Jeff McGee a haircut on May 21, 2020 at his barber shop in Plainville, Kan. Morin said he was two to three times busier than usual after reopening a week earlier after being closed in a store for two months, efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

It might be tempting to conclude that Republicans are braver (or ruthless), while Democrats are more cautious (or shy). By the end of summer, the Republicans will be tanned, satiated, coiffed, and infected, while the Democrats will be pale, bored, shaggy, and safe.

But these differences in party politics are likely due to the geography and mapping of the virus rather than differences in behavior. At the start of the pandemic, coronavirus infection rates were highest in coastal areas heavily populated by Democrats and lowest in rural countries dominated by Republicans. There are exceptions, for example with severe outbreaks in parts of Georgia, Iowa and North Dakota. But the high rate of coronavirus infections and deaths in democratic strongholds would of course make Dems more careful, while Republicans who hear about the virus but don’t see it would of course be less intimidated.

These patterns may not apply. The Brookings Institution’s persecution shows that the coronavirus migrates from the coasts to the south and midwest, including rural areas. Since April 20, 85% of the districts that have switched from low-prevalence to high-prevalence areas have voted for Republicans in the 2016 presidential election. Republicans’ willingness to resume normal activities can change if the virus becomes a real and current threat.

Melissa and Lexie Hoinski have lunch at an outdoor restaurant in Mayfield Heights, Ohio on May 20, 2020. The restaurants can accommodate guests in the house from Thursday. (AP Photo / Tony Dejak)Melissa and Lexie Hoinski have lunch at an outdoor restaurant in Mayfield Heights, Ohio on May 20, 2020. The restaurants can accommodate guests in the house from Thursday. (AP Photo / Tony Dejak)

Melissa and Lexie Hoinski have lunch at an outdoor restaurant in Mayfield Heights, Ohio on May 20, 2020. The restaurants can accommodate guests in the house from Thursday. (AP Photo / Tony Dejak)

The biggest unknown is whether relaxing the restrictions will cause the virus to reappear. In this case, areas that were spared during the first outbreak could become congested during the second outbreak, as they never went through the fire drill to prepare for overcrowded hospitals and increase mortality rates. Fear is not usually partisan, and Democrats may not look so weak if the virus continues to rage.

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