About a year ago, state and local governments in the United States began urging residents to adjust their work, school and social lives in response to the spread of a novel coronavirus first identified in China.
Americans could agree on a few things at that early stage of the U.S. outbreak. With restaurants, stores and other public spaces around the country closing their doors, most saw COVID-19 as a serious economic threat to the nation. Most approved of their state and local officials’ initial responses to the outbreak. And they generally had confidence in hospitals and medical centers to handle the needs of those stricken with the virus.
As the pandemic wore on, however, there was less and less common ground. Indeed, the biggest takeaway about U.S. public opinion in the first year of the coronavirus outbreak may be the extent to which the decidedly nonpartisan virus met with an increasingly partisan response. Democrats and Republicans disagreed over everything from eating out in restaurants to reopening schools, even as the actual impact of the pandemic fell along different fault lines, including race and ethnicity, income, age and family structure. America’s partisan divide stood out even by international standards: No country was as politically divided over its government’s handling of the outbreak as the U.S. was in a 14-nation survey last summer.
As the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. extends into its second year – with more than…