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Opinion
Jonathan Bernstein

Voters Aren’t Worried About Covid. Politicians Should Be.

The pandemic ranked dead last in a recent ranking of public concerns. But it still packs a strong political punch.

It isn’t over til it’s over.

It isn’t over til it’s over.

Photographer: David Banks/Getty Images

Political scientist Dan Drezner asks a really good question: Why, according to recent polling, don’t US citizens consider the coronavirus pandemic a big problem any more? In fact, of 12 issues ranked in order of public concern in a survey by the Pew Research Center last month, Covid-19 finished dead last. Unemployment scored as a more worrisome problem, which is impressive considering that the job market is about as healthy as it’s ever been.

To Drezner, the lack of concern is “nuts” as the US passes the threshold of 1 million dead. But it’s also understandable, consistent with public health statistics and messages conveyed by opinion leaders. It’s true, as Drezner says, that case counts have been increasing for the last six weeks or so. It’s also likely for a variety of reasons that current statistics undercount cases. However, hospitalization statistics are still relatively low. Counts of patients in intensive-care units have hardly increased from post-Omicron lows, and are still essentially at their lowest rates since the beginning of the pandemic in the US. Overall hospitalization isn’t quite that low, but it remains below all but a couple of months over the last two years.