Different Political Beliefs and Views on Coronavirus

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Different Political Beliefs and Views on Coronavirus

Different Political Beliefs and Their Impact on Businesses

Generally, Democrats tend to be more concerned about COVID-19 and more likely to follow expert advice, while Republicans are less concerned about the pandemic and more concerned about protecting local businesses from government interference. However, attitudes are slowly converging as the severity of the pandemic begins to sink in.

  • Democrats tend to be clustered in cities that are more integrated into the global economy and were therefore hit hardest and first. They are almost twice as worried about getting the virus as Republicans and take more measures to control it. In mid-March, 61% of Democrats said they were “very” or “somewhat” worried about personally contracting COVID-19; only 37% of Republicans said that. 24% of Republicans said they were “not worried at all”.
  • This is reflected in the impact on businesses like travel. In the same survey, 23% of Democrats had already canceled travel plans while only 14% of Republicans had done so. Democrat states tend to have some of the strictest rules clamping down on nonessential businesses and have the strictest quarantines in place.
  • Partisanship is also the single greatest predictor in the policies people support to deal with the virus. Republicans are less likely to follow CDC-recommended policies but are more likely to support restricting trade and enacting border control. Democrats tend to focus more on changing personal behaviors and supporting socializing testing and treatment costs which creates widely differing threats to businesses. The implication is that depending on the state (and even the political affiliation of the business owner), trade tariffs and closing borders may be enacted, but no restrictions on their specific business remaining open, while those in Democratic states may suspend normal life faster and earlier, and self-quarantine (avoiding businesses).
  • The disjoint in beliefs and therefore action is combining with the federal structure of the US government to mean that responses have been wildly disjoint, as virus carriers can cross state or county lines. For example, cellphone data showed that people from counties that were not on lockdown, like Jacksonville and Daytona Beach, frequently crossed over into other counties. Unlike other disasters, as well, states cannot send help to others that are harder hit (as with the case of firefighters being sent to California, for example) since everyone is being hit at the same time. These two situations have the effect of states being pitted against one another and setting off a bidding war for equipment- meaning that containment is less effective and the virus is possibly more deadly than necessary. Businesses reopening are likely to be delayed, as carriers cross and recross county or state lines and more are infected.
  • In some cases, Republican beliefs have led to businesses and travel remaining open for business longer than their Democratic counterparts. This is especially as they may be more aligned with business interests. As mentioned in the Early Findings, Republican governor Ron de Santis kept the state open until April 1 (after spring break), allowing businesses to keep operating during one of the most profitable seasons of a tourism-driven state. However, this was justified by saying that his state supported local governments that chose to close down but that it wasn't his place to step in and make those judgments for them. This echoes a traditional Republican belief against government stepping in and reining in business or consumer freedom.
  • Having said that, partisanship around this issue Republicans and Democrats is lessening as the pandemic gains in severity. This comes as cases are declared in all 50 states, and as Trump and other Republican leaders begin to change their tune about the severity of the pandemic. This is also reflected across states- in Washington state, which was hard-hit early on, Republicans have shown the highest level of concern for weeks.
  • Political theory bears out this trend- previous studies show that given a public health problem, the more anxious people became (regardless of Republican or Democrat), the more likely they would want an expert opinion (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

COVID-19 Effects on Travel and Tourism

Predictably, COVID-19 has had a disastrous effect on travel and tourism. The effects are far larger than that of 9/11, especially given the global scope of the pandemic. This is compounded by the cancellation or postponement of large conferences and conventions, which have hurt local economies very badly. However, in cases where businesses were not shut down (as with Florida's Spring Break), COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed.
  • The effect on revenue for airlines has been drastic. An industry group called The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that revenue might drop by $63 billion to $113 billion. In contrast, 9/11 created a revenue drop of $20 billion. The effect on the larger travel industry is mind-boggling. The Global Business Travel Association estimates that global travel spending could drop by 37% or more, which is the equivalent of $46.6 billion a month or $560 billion in a year.
  • In response, airlines have drastically cut flights and change fees have been waived for the most part. Expanded safety measures are also in place. For example, United Airlines cut 90% of their flights in April. Customers that cancel trips get travel credits that they can use for up to 24 months after, and they can also reschedule trips for free for the next 12 months. Sanitation procedures have also been updated- flight attendants will not refill cups, and customers will have to throw their own trash into carts. Inflight services will be prepackaged and sealed. Lastly, cabin crew may wear gloves and masks on select flights.
  • Most conventions, conferences, and business travel have been suspended, which will hit travel hard. Some top events that have been canceled or suspended include the NBA, the NHL, Formula 1, Coachella, and South by Southwest. Top destinations have also closed, including Disneyland, Disneyworld, Universal Studios, and Seaworld.
  • The cancellation or suspension of events does not just have ramifications for the travel industry, but tourism and local economies as well. For example, the International Housewares Association's Home Show in Chicago usually brings in about 60,000 people over three days. That event has been canceled. The city's tourism agency, Choose Chicago, said that's about a $92 million loss for the local economy.
  • It has become even more important for companies to help out their local economy, and to be seen doing so. This also means that resources that would otherwise remain fallow are put to use. For example, hotels in NYC, like the Four Seasons, are offering rooms for free exclusively for medical staff. They are fully booked and have received commendations for having the same safety procedures as hospitals. In San Francisco, the government is paying $213 per room per day for isolation rooms, including three meals. Hotels that have volunteered include 5-star locations.

Measures to Recover Losses Post-COVID-19

Generally, businesses will need to take visible, extreme measures to reassure consumers of safety. Flexibility will also be another concern, given the possibility of another epidemic. Expect business travel to recover first given the necessity of doing certain negotiations face-to-face.
  • Customers will need to be reassured with visible, concrete measures to ensure their safety. That might take the form of visible hand sanitizers everywhere or even communications designed around regular cleaning of all services. It might also take the form of more space between travelers (for example, on planes) which will affect the bottom line.
  • Carriers like cruises and airlines should entice consumers back with a massive drop in prices at least until consumer confidence recovers. Business travel is likely to rebound first so the focus should be there, given that there is still a (possibly perceived) need for face-to-face communication on sensitive deals. Domestic leisure travel will follow, and international travel is likely to recover last. Booking flexibility should be the norm given skittish travelers, at least for a while.
  • There is likely to be a swing towards hotels rather than AirBnBs and the like, so hotels should focus on their strengths, like the ability to have a standardized and rigorous cleaning protocol, which says safety and security to consumers.
  • Lastly, some interesting partnerships are cropping up in the face of necessity. Travel and tourism staff often have transferable skills that are in demand in other sectors, like supermarkets and hospitals. For example, Woolworths, Telstra, and Rio Tinto might pivot 20,000 Qantas workers who are temporarily stood down into helping restock shelves, do customer service, and even manage social media.
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