POLITICO-Harvard poll: Majority of Americans support more Covid aid for the uninsured
At the same time, more than six in 10 respondents believe that more congressional spending on Covid aid will contribute to inflation. Republicans and Independents were more concerned about the potential impact than Democrats; 84 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of Independents said more Covid spending would lead to increased inflation, compared to 37 percent of Democrats.
The findings reflect a complicated landscape for politicians deciding where voters’ priorities lie ahead of this fall’s midterm election.
On one hand, inflation remains the largest concern for voters of all political affiliations, making big spending pushes like the Covid-19 aid package politically risky.
On the other, cases for Covid-19 continue to rise, up 44 percent in the last month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If another surge leads to increased hospitalizations and death — and the government is once again unprepared to offer enough tests, vaccines and antiviral treatments — that’s a clear liability, said Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis, emeritus, at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“If there were headlines that you can’t get antivirals in Nebraska, I wouldn’t want to be the one who said that I was against funding,” he said. “This could bite back anybody.”
In March, the White House requested $22.5 billion from Congress in Covid aid, including $1.5 billion for providers who offered testing, treatment and vaccines to uninsured and underinsured Americans. But Republicans balked at the price tag and Democrats tanked a $15 billion deal because they opposed paying for that aid using their home states’ stockpiles of pandemic cash. A bipartisan deal for a smaller, $10 billion package, which cut that funding, has also stalled.
”If you want to [know] what keeps me awake at night, it is that we are going to run out of vaccines,” Covid coordinator Ashish Jha said last week at a White House press briefing. “We’re not going to be able to have enough of the next generation of vaccines. We’re going to run out of treatments. And we’re going to run out of diagnostic tests, probably in the late fall into winter, if we end up having a significant surge of infections.”
While most Americans were willing to spend at home, the POLITICO-Harvard survey found that less than half of Americans felt it was important for the federal government to continue to provide substantial funding for Covid-19 vaccination and testing in developing nations.
Just about 48 percent of respondents felt it was “extremely” or “very” important, compared to 15 percent who said it was “not important at all.”
Blendon said the lackluster support for supporting Covid interventions overseas also comes down to Americans’ deep concerns over rising prices.
“People can’t escape that spending more money on Covid is inflationary, and so they have to make a tough [choice],” he said. “And the [choice] is: Do what you can to help domestically but they’ve decided in an inflationary period, they’re not [in favor of] spending that much money overseas.”