Pandemic response, economy among U.S. voters’ top concerns as Democratic National Convention underway

Person voting

Halfway through the 2020 Democratic National Convention (DNC), U.S. voters are keenly watching who will come out of this year’s presidential election to lead the United States that is struggling to get the coronavirus under control, bring the economy back on track and heal the wounds of racial division.

The almost all-virtual DNC, which kicked off Monday and runs through Thursday, has seen Former Vice President Joe Biden officially become the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee to take on sitting President Donald Trump.
COVID-19 leadership, health care and tax reform are issues of particular importance for LeeAnne Johnson, a 53-year-old political consultant who identifies as a Democrat.

She expects the next U.S. president “to allocate funds that will allow states and municipalities to do what needs to be done, to pass legislation that has funded mandates to stop COVID, to lead.”

The coronavirus, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, has infected 5.5 million Americans and claimed more than 172,000 lives as of Wednesday. The Trump administration’s pandemic response has been deeply divisive across the country.

Janet Sattler, a college professor, views the government’s response as incompetent. “I am surprised that he (Trump) hasn’t even tried to solve the problem, given that doing so would be the easiest way to ensure a legitimate victory,” said the 50-year-old Democrat.

Brian Lantz from the state of Texas, on the other hand, believes Trump and the White House Coronavirus Task Force “have worked very, very hard to ensure that healthcare resources have been made available across the nation as rapidly and effectively as possible.”

“Now headway is being made. Now, great progress is being made on developing treatments and vaccines, and there is international cooperation in this work,” said the Houston representative of a European think tank, a staunch Trump supporter.

U.S. voters pin high hopes on a vaccine to get out of the pandemic that has left millions of Americans jobless, many on the brink of food insecurity, and they expect the future president to ensure easy access to the vaccine.

“I expect them to get a vaccine to the people who want them and include the vaccine in regular immunizations for the American public,” Patrick Gorski, a University of Illinois student who identifies as an independent, told Xinhua.
Gorski added that the federal government should have issued a national mask mandate, a move Trump has opposed. Biden, together with his running mate Senator Kamala Harris, has recently called for a three-month nationwide mask mandate to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“I support Joe Biden/Kamala Harris because I truly believe they will be able to take control and improve the handling of COVID-19, as well as advocate for the people in our country who need it the most and not just the wealthy 1 percent,” said Jen W., a 44-year-old Democrat.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday showed that Biden leads Trump nationally by 9 points among registered voters.

Trump will accept the Republican presidential nomination at the White House during the Republican National Convention slated for Aug. 24-27.

“The most important issues of the election are controlling the pandemic and bringing back a better economy,” said Chuck Hamil, a 61-year-old insurance investigator who describes himself as a moderate Democrat.

The United States, nowhere near bringing the virus under control, is scrambling to strike a balance between securing economic recovery and handling the pandemic. The U.S. economy contracted at an annual rate of 32.9 percent in the second quarter, the sharpest contraction in decades, amid the mounting fallout of COVID-19 lockdowns.

The Trump administration has vigorously pushed for reopening the economy, as it is widely believed that upbeat economic numbers could help incumbent presidents like Trump win a second term.

“I think the main reason I support President Trump is his work with the economy,” said Mike Simon from St. Charles, Illinois.

Economy, justice and government deficit spending are the top three concerns for the 69-year-old sales rep who identifies as an independent.

“You (future president) have to marshall all the resources possible to cope with this COVID while at the same time, you can’t destroy the economy. It’s a delicate balance between keeping people safe and keeping the economy going,” he said.

According to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Biden holds double-digit advantages over Trump on such issues as the coronavirus, immigration, health care, and race relations.

The country’s racial wounds have been laid bare during the pandemic, as African Americans and Latinos, among other minority groups, have been disproportionately hurt by the virus.

Racial tensions have run high especially since the killing of African American man George Floyd by a white police officer in May, which sparked nationwide protests calling for racial equality and justice.

Many U.S. voters have pointed to the worsening race relations as a major concern and hope they could take a turn for the better.

The race relations “are worse in the way people feel comfortable displaying hate toward black and brown people, but I think this has paved the way for better race relations in the future,” said Steve Warmowski from Jacksonville, Illinois.

“People were shocked by the overt racism and I think it will make people more aware of improving race relations in the future,” the 51-year-old independent added.

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