how was your week?

1,663 New York Readers on Trump, COVID, and Election Anxiety

‘Every day brings a fresh news nightmare that would’ve been unimaginable to 2014 me.’

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

This spring, in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, New York began conducting a weekly poll to learn more about how the pandemic was upending our readers’ lives. Thousands of you opened up to us about the havoc this year was wreaking on your mental health, work-life balance, future plans, and more. Now, as the virus continues to spread across the country while the increasingly unpredictable and chaotic presidential campaigns play out, we’re restarting it. This week: Your reactions to Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, your pre-election anxieties, and how you’re planning to cast your vote.

How would you describe your emotional state right now?

Very anxious and/or scared: 25%
Somewhat anxious and/or scared: 39%
Concerned: 28%
Slightly concerned: 5%
Totally fine: 3%

Have you had COVID-19 at any time in the past seven months?

Yes: 3%
No: 89%
I think I may have had it but couldn’t get tested in time: 8%

Do you know anyone else who has had it?

Yes: 80%
No: 20%

Have you ever taken a coronavirus test?

Yes: 44%
No: 56%

Do you, or does anyone in your household, fear that your work puts you at significant risk of contracting the virus?

Yes: 27%
No: 73%

How would you rate the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic?

Great!: 1%
Reasonably fine: 2%
Just okay: 1%
Flawed: 2%
An unmitigated disaster: 95%

Has the pandemic changed your decision about whom to vote for in the presidential election?

Yes: 5%
No: 94%
I’m still undecided: 1%

Has the pandemic changed your decision about whom to vote for in your state or local elections?

Yes: 12%
No: 86%
I’m still undecided: 2%

How are you planning to vote?

In person on Election Day: 13%
In person during early voting: 28%
By mail or drop-off: 54%
I’m not voting, by choice: <1%
I’m not voting, because I’m not eligible: 5%

If you’re voting early or by mail, have you voted already?

Yes: 28%
No: 72%

Have you experienced a furlough, job loss, or pay cut as a result of the recession?

Yes: 33%
No: 57%
Not Applicable: 10%

If so, have you since returned to work, found new employment, or had your normal pay reinstated?

Yes: 37%
No: 63%

Has anyone in your household received unemployment benefits during the past seven months?

Yes: 24%
No: 76%

If so, how did the end of the $600/week federal payment affect you?

I’m struggling to cover basic necessities without it: 22%
I’m having more financial stress, but I’m able to get by: 45%
I’m doing relatively fine: 33%

What was your reaction when you learned President Trump had tested positive for COVID-19?

“Totally unsurprised. He refuses to follow CDC guidelines and discourages others from following them. He didn’t allow mask-wearing in the White House. He is responsible for thousands of deaths and COVID-19 infections. He said elections have consequences. Actions have consequences, and he is suffering the repercussions of his own actions. I hope he recovers, but I didn’t vote for him in 2016 and won’t be voting for him in 2020. He is a dangerous man.”

“Seemed like it was only a matter of time. But probably my first reaction was, ‘How is he going to spin this at the last minute in his favor before election night?’”

“How can things be getting even crazier?”

“It seemed inevitable since he has taken no precautions and downplayed the severity of the virus. He has consistently undermined any efforts to inform the public of the benefits of mask wearing, and derailed all attempts to control the spread of coronavirus by mocking people who wear masks. I’m disgusted by his irresponsible behavior and disrespect for the American people. He proves over and over again that he is unfit to lead.”

“I read this in bed the second I woke up and I had this immediate swelling feeling of joy that I have not felt in months. I literally could not wait to wake my husband up and tell him; like, it was Christmas morning. Then guilt about that reaction set in because in general I try not to indulge in schadenfreude or wishing ill toward others. But, you know, Trump, so… anyway, then I started to run through the scenarios and question if it was even real. And THEN I felt a wave of disgust because I live in a reality where when the president of the US announces globally that he has a potentially deadly virus I wonder if it is even true. All that happened in about sixteen minutes between 7:45 and 8:01am. Since then it has just been all of those same feelings in waves. When will it end?”

“I was surprised, and then surprised at being surprised because it felt kind of inevitable given his choices. He killed more than 200,000 people with his disastrous policies so it’s hard to feel much sympathy for him.”

“I kind of assumed the lack of masks and other precautions were just for show. Just to rile up the base and cause a distraction. I thought surely they were actually protecting Trump behind closed doors. Turns out he and the whole inner circle really are just that stupid.”

“Frankly, one of complete karmic balance. I would never wish ill on someone – even someone as heinous as Trump – but there’s something perfectly appropriate about it, given his continued lying, lack of leadership, and utter inability to sympathize with what people are going through.”

“Bereft. I think if he dies, all hell will break loose. Better that he limps along to the finish line and crosses it well behind Biden. However, I am TERRIFIED that Biden will get sick, which will have so many horrendous consequences (and I am not a huge fan!) that will reverberate across the
planet. Never has one man’s fate been so tied to so many others.”

“I thought it perfectly illustrated the failure to implement even a minimally adequate public health response for an advanced, rich country like the U.S. I had no real hope it would change his approach, but I did hope it would pull the curtain away from the eyes of marginal Trump voters. I hope he doesn’t die so that he can be held accountable. The last thing we need is Trump as a MAGA martyr.”

“It made me ill, just one more chaos-causing development in a year full of them. I was also taken aback by the glee that some of my friends expressed about it – which to me was a demonstration of the awful tone that Trump himself has set in the country.”

“It had to happen eventually. Neither he, nor anyone in his administration, seem to care about what happens to anyone else. They don’t even seem to care what happens to themselves and their loved ones. It’s either that or they’re all complete idiots that think they’re the smartest people in the room. Or both. It’s mind numbing.”

“Shocked, but not surprised. I feel bad for the front line workers and true Americans who contracted COVID working to feed their families or save the lives of others. I feel bad for people who took precautions but suffered anyway. I do not feel bad for Donald Trump, who at every turn ignored, mocked, and disregarded scientific research and the recommendations of medical professionals. I don’t feel bad for Donald Trump because he has proven, over the last four years and certainly over the last eight months, that he doesn’t feel bad for American citizens who suffered due to his incompetence.”

“I was hopeful that he would have to personally experience some of the suffering the rest of us have been living for months that his administration has caused. I was and am still nervous about any benefits his survival might have to his re-election bid. I’m a COVID long-hauler in my twenties and I, somewhat shamefully, just want him to experience the fear and debilitation that I have, that I may have to live with for a long long time.”

What are your greatest concerns between now and the election?

“That we’ll have an awful new Supreme Court nominee. That Biden will get coronavirus and die. That a second wave of coronavirus will throw a wrench in in-person voting and be used by the Trump administration as justification for voter suppression tactics at the polls.”

“That more people will die (they will), that we’ll cross more and more thresholds in climate issues that will lead to death, poverty and mass migration, that they’ll get a SCOTUS nominee through and we’ll all be fucked for a generation, that Trump and the Senate will pull a John Adams and stack unelected positions before departing (who am I kidding, he’s done that with the judiciary already) or a Wisconsin Republicans and fuck over the incoming executive during the lame duck session if Biden wins.”

“There will be no stimulus bill passed and we’ll have to wait more months for help. Also that the Supreme Court Justice will be confirmed which is clearly, oh so clearly being rushed by hypocrites. This to me is a scary sign that we are no longer a true democracy.”

“What ISN’T a concern?! I was worried about far-right violence on/after Election Day, but we got a sneak preview of that today [The plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer.]… every day brings a fresh news nightmare that would’ve been unimaginable to 2014 me.”

“Violence against me or my family. We’re Black and live in the middle of the country, I’ve thought about carrying a weapon. I’m not anti-gun, I grew up in a house with guns and a father that served in Vietnam. I am, however, a proponent of new, stricter gun laws and being a responsible gun owner. White, right-wing people have me looking over my shoulder on the daily.”

“On a personal level, I am super concerned about my weight gain, my appearance, my lack of regular exercise, my overall feeling of malaise. I am worried I will lose all of my stock market gains. I am worried that as a cancer survivor I’ll soon be once again uninsurable. I am worried that Trump will win – mentally I don’t think I can handle four more years of his bullying. If he loses, I am worried there will be a civil war.”

“1) The volume of conspiracy theories and other misinformation. My own grandsons are planning to vote for Trump based on misinformation on social media. 2) Trump’s mental state and unwillingness to delegate. 3) U.S. enemies taking advantage of the moment. 4) Failure of a stimulus package to help Americans in great need.”

“They are several: that Trump will continue to wantonly spread not only the virus itself, personally, but also his vicious lies about its seriousness, resulting in yet more sirens and dead bodies all over this country. That he will continue to egg on white supremacists, exhorting them to intimidate and kill the most vulnerable among us. That he will continue to seek to preemptively de-legitimize, through speech and action, the election that will take place on November 3rd. But most of all, as it becomes increasingly clear that he will lose any full, free and fair election, that he will decide to just ‘burn it all down’ – the country, our society, our traditions and customs (imperfect as they are) and any semblance of comity and decency still
left here – out of nothing more than spite, because he can’t stomach any wound to his selfish, narcissistic ego.”

“My zip code is among those in the red zone in Brooklyn, I fear numbers spiking everywhere. I’m concerned about losing more people, especially those close to me. I’m concerned about anarchy, violence, and hatred. I worry about how this administration will cheat their way through the election.”

“I’m Black, visibly queer and trans, and partnered to a white person – I’m terrified about white mob violence and domestic terrorism. I can’t sleep at night and I’m always anxious. I fucking hate this.”

“I’m concerned about the virus spreading more, and more quickly. I’m concerned that conservatives want to focus on the Supreme Court when that should be second to the virus. I’m concerned that Republican insistence on talking about anything but handling the virus is pushing the Overton Window so far off where it needs to be that more people are going to die senselessly. And I’m concerned that a month from now, nothing will have changed and we’ll be in the same situation, not dealing with anything and letting people die for no good reason.”

“A literal civil war. I guess we’re already witnessing the decay of the country. These problems did not start with Trump and will not end with Biden. Voting is not going to fix everything. I fear that people will stop fighting if Biden wins.”

“Not knowing where or when I’m going to work again. Worried about even more self-isolation. Worried about friends with depression who live alone. Worried about reading triggering racist headlines. Worried about not seeing people I love and miss.”

“I’m an election judge, so I’m worried about what I may have to face at the polls. I’m concerned that Trump will continue to take down our country past the point of redemption. And I’m terrified that he could win.”

“My grandma is going to die and I won’t be able to hold her hand.”

“That Russia will steal the election for Trump again. That many more people will die of COVID-19. That I am becoming strange mentally from self-isolation in fear of the virus. That if Trump loses the election, he will trigger violence among his hate groups. That despite all my precautions and self-isolation, I will contract COVID-19 at age 77, with more than one comorbidity. That I will lose more acquaintances to the discovery that they can vote for Trump, losing my respect. That I will lose friends to the horror of COVID-19, when I have few left at my age. That Putin and Trump will come up with an October Surprise as they did in 2016 that changes voter minds at the last moment. That my mental and emotional strength will break if Trump wins the presidency again.”

How much trust do you have in election polls?

“Plenty! And people who say they ‘don’t trust polls’ are infuriating. The polls in 2016 suggested a 30% chance of Trump winning and when you look at any given state where Clinton was projected to win, but Trump won instead, the polling had shown a very close race. This truly irritates me so much.”

“Depends on the poll (who conducts it, what they ask, etc). It is too soon to tell whether people lied to pollsters like they did in 2016. Also national polls are useless because they don’t reflect electoral college math.”

“Not enough to be complacent. I glance at them but remain worried and wish the media and pollsters would’ve learned more from 2016 in this regard.”

“Omigod like none at this point. If anything, when the polls demonstrate favorably for my candidate, I fear it makes that voter group complacent and less likely to vote. But also, you know, the popular vote doesn’t matter anyway. Like, literally, it does not matter.”

“I may be a bit skeptical, but want to believe them. But until today they never tapped me. So I wonder who they’re all asking to answer these polls.”

“Cautionary trust. I love data, but no prediction is 100% accurate.”

“I’m placing greater trust in them this year than, say, following the 2016 election, because an analysis of the various best-practices being employed around weighting, bias, etc. would seem to put polling methodology in a better position as far as overall accuracy vs. 2016. Also, 2018 polling seemed to, overall, bear out reasonably accurately for the midterm elections. I feel like this many polls can’t be this ‘off’. If, in the event, they seem to be, I’d be inclined to look at other explanations, such as foreign interference.”

“Medium: I try to ignore national polls and focus on state polling but I worry that Trump supporters are embarrassed to admit their support and are not being accurately counted. I learned my lesson in 2016.”

“Polls are not the end-all-be-all say in how an election will play out. It’s a good measuring stick but shouldn’t be looked at as the only measuring stick. A consistent fourteen point lead is encouraging but we’ve got a real-life dictator who has weaponized the federal government for his benefit. Any fucking thing can happen especially if the American people don’t show up in the streets to protest in huge numbers alongside voting.”

“I go to bed like the polls are right and wake up every morning like they are dead wrong.”

“I trust that they capture a brief moment in the political consciousness of a sampling of the population. I trust that they’re relevant for the moment when presented when nuance and context about methodology. I don’t trust them to speak for the population as a whole for the long term. And I don’t trust any poll that claims to declare a winner.”

“I think polling averages are probably the best tool we have to assess the state of the race. Currently, they show Biden ahead nationally by nine points or so. A Trump victory is not impossible, but a 10+ point Biden landslide is more probable. My guess, given the stability of the race, is that polls will be more or less accurate.”

“A high level (in the aggregate), but I trust the betting lines more.”

“High trust in polls (being aware of polling errors) as signaling voting intention. Somewhat concerned that shenanigans might lead to that not translating into counted votes.”

“Ask me on a day when I’m day drinking. Right now I trust no one.”

“Very low. I believe a substantial number of voters are ashamed to admit how they will vote, either because they are anti-Trump Republicans who don’t want to be perceived as disloyal, or because they are Trump supporters who don’t want to publicly identify as such.”

“High trust in polls like 538 that use scientific polling and data techniques; medium-high trust in polling from legitimate news sources like the New York Times; and low trust in other polls.”

“I am hopeful that this election will have a historic turnout, with a large number of first time voters. Therefore, I don’t really trust polling for this election.”

*Note: Not every respondent answered every question.

1,663 New York Readers on Trump, COVID, and Election Anxiety