New York State

The partisan divide during quarantine

Democrats and Republicans differ on how they’re using their time at home.

According to a new Siena College poll democrats and republicans have been spending their quarantine differently.

According to a new Siena College poll democrats and republicans have been spending their quarantine differently. Sam Wordley/Shutterstock

Political affiliation can say a lot about New Yorkers’ attitudes toward the coronavirus pandemic. It can help predict whether someone supports reopening schools, indoor dining and even how they have spent their free time since the pandemic began.

A new Siena College poll showed that Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats to have adopted a pet since the pandemic began and more likely to have completed a home improvement project. Democrats, however, had a slight edge when it came to developing a new hobby during quarantine. Nearly a third of Republicans, a quarter of Democrats and a fifth of independents said they had been drinking more alcohol recently.

These might seem like superficial differences, but they hint at much more profound divides among New Yorkers as the campaign season heats up and worries continue about a surge of COVID-19 cases in the coming months.

Take for example the huge partisan divide in response to whether “the government’s priority should be to contain the spread of the coronavirus, even if it hurts the economy.” Less than half of Republican respondents agreed, while huge majorities of Democrats and independents shared that view. Republicans were also much more likely to say that they were willing to work out in a gym, go to a bowling alley, visit a museum or go to a movie theater. Regional differences can account for some of these differences, but taken as a whole, Republicans may be less concerned than they had been about the pandemic.

Early on in the pandemic, there was a bipartisan consensus about the state’s health and safety response to the pandemic. This still exists to some extent, according to the poll. About 3 in 4 Democrats, Republicans and independents said they wear protective masks outside the home, with about half of each group also fearing they or someone in their household will contract COVID-19. Majorities from both parties even said they have spent their quarantine time reconnecting with old friends and distant family. It is worth noting that these partisan differences were stronger on political matters than relatively unimportant questions about whether people have lost or gained weight (for the record, equal proportions of Republicans and Democrats reported losing weight).

Yet, as some New Yorkers head back to work and children get ready to go back to school, it is interesting to note how the partisan differences appear to be getting much worse at the same time. If that ends up hurting efforts to contain the pandemic, then it could mean that the 59% of New Yorkers who have yet to find a new hobby during the pandemic might just have more time to discover the joys of scrapbooking.