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How Americans Are Reacting To Trump’s COVID-19 Diagnosis

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For a while now, attitudes toward the COVID-19 pandemic have been growing increasingly partisan. Republicans, for instance, have been less likely to see COVID-19 as a threat and more resistant to taking public health precautions like reducing their movement and practicing social distancing measures.

That may change, though, as the country’s long-running battle with COVID-19 hit a new inflection point on Friday when news broke that President Trump had been infected. There’s still a lot we don’t know at this point, but polls in the wake of Trump’s diagnosis and hospitalization show signs of Republicans taking the virus a little more seriously and maybe even adjusting their own behavior in response.

But political scientists who have been following public opinion over the course of the pandemic cautioned us that a lot still depends on how long Trump remains ill, whether he continues to insist that he’s recovering quickly and, perhaps most importantly, whether the Trump team starts handling the virus differently — for example, by starting to wear masks.

“Attitudes and behaviors around COVID-19 have become really concrete at this point — it will take a lot to move them in a significant, lasting way,” said Shana Gadarian, a political science professor at Syracuse University who is part of a team that has repeatedly surveyed Americans about COVID-19 since March. One big question is whether Trump will change his own behavior as a result of his experience with the virus, which could have a significant impact on how Republicans respond. [Editor’s note: After publication, Trump tweeted that he planned to leave the hospital today, telling Americans “Don’t be afraid of covid.”]

Here’s a look at what we know so far:

Americans — including some Republicans — don’t think Trump took enough precautions

At this point, we only have five polls asking Americans what they think about the president’s diagnosis and how it has (or hasn’t) affected how they think about the coronavirus, but one thing that stands out is that most Americans, including some Republicans, don’t think Trump has taken the coronavirus seriously enough.

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll, for instance, they found that 67 percent of registered voters agreed that if Trump had taken the coronavirus more seriously, he probably wouldn’t have been infected, including about 9 in 10 Democrats and half of all Republicans. Meanwhile, a Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that 52 percent of registered voters didn’t trust Trump to give accurate info about his health and his COVID-19 treatment. And Politico/Morning Consult found that 56 percent of Americans did not trust Trump to give accurate updates on his health.

This lack of trust is largely in line with other surveys we saw prior to the president’s diagnosis, as Americans have long distrusted Trump to handle the coronavirus pandemic.

There’s some evidence that Republicans might take the coronavirus more seriously

Some polls point to a small but meaningful increase in how seriously the public perceives the threat of the coronavirus, especially among Republicans. In an ABC News/Ipsos survey conducted Oct. 2-3, 37 percent of Americans said they were very concerned that they or someone they knew would become infected, and 44 percent said they were somewhat concerned. This represented a 9-point uptick in concern from the same survey in mid-September, when 29 percent said they were very concerned and 43 percent somewhat concerned. Notably, this change was driven entirely by Republicans and independents, too: 70 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of independents were concerned, up from 52 percent and 69 percent, respectively. Conversely, concern among Democrats didn’t budge.

But not every survey found as large of an increase in concern. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll in early October found 22 percent of registered voters were very worried and 39 percent somewhat worried about personally contracting the virus, almost identical to what it found in late September. And the share of voters who said they were very worried about the coronavirus was essentially unchanged in Morning Consult’s polling.

Still, some Americans may be taking the coronavirus a bit more seriously after Trump’s diagnosis, at least when it comes to broader public health measures. For instance, Politico/Morning Consult found that the share of adults who said that face masks were very effective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus increased slightly, from 56 percent in late September to 59 percent. And what’s more, 52 percent of Republicans answered this way, which marked the first time the share of Republicans had topped 50 percent since the pollster started asking about the effectiveness of masks in early March. Politico/Morning Consult’s survey also found that a majority of Americans said the news about Trump made them more likely to wear a mask in public or practice social distancing.

The share of people who view the threat of the coronavirus as somehow overblown may also be down. Axios/SurveyMonkey found that, compared to numbers from back in March, more Americans believed that news reports about the seriousness of COVID-19 are generally correct and fewer say they’re generally exaggerated.

But public opinion on how Trump’s handled the pandemic may be pretty baked in

When it came to what Americans thought about Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, there was little or no change in public opinion. Among adults, Politico/Morning Consult found Trump’s approval rating at 36 percent, slightly down from 39 percent in late September. And Reuters/Ipsos found his approval among all Americans at 41 percent, not too different from the 43 percent who approved of his response in a poll conducted just before the news of his diagnosis. Lastly, Yahoo News/YouGov found little movement among registered voters compared to its late September survey (43 percent versus 41 percent).

As you can see in our tracker on coronavirus polling, these latest polls broadly match the same poor ratings Trump had before his diagnosis became public: On Oct. 1, about 40 percent approved of his handling of the coronavirus.

It’s hard to imagine at this point that there will be a meaningful shift in public opinion on how Trump has handled the virus. On the one hand, it is somewhat good news for Trump that there aren’t signs of public opinion plummeting. But at the same time, other political leaders’ approval ratings have not moved all that much after they became infected with COVID-19, so it’s unlikely Trump sees a boost. Although Trump’s overall approval rating has ticked up somewhat.

Some experts think it’s going to take a lot to shift public opinion

It’s been less than a week since the news of Trump’s diagnosis broke, and we’re still getting mixed signals about the actual state of Trump’s health from his doctors. So it’s possible what we’re seeing in the polls now could change. But Marc Hetherington, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has been studying public opinion around COVID-19 and the government response since the pandemic began, said that he isn’t holding his breath for a big shift in Republicans’ opinions. “It all depends on how he [Trump] handles this,” Hetherington said. “He could say, ‘Boy, I got that one wrong, we ought to be wearing masks and so forth, this is a really serious virus.’ But that’s very much not the message so far.”

Over the past few months, research by Hetherington, Gadarian and other political scientists has found that Republicans and Democrats have gotten further apart on pretty much everything having to do with COVID-19, from their personal concern that they might get sick to their support for government public health interventions like mask mandates. And as we wrote earlier this summer, Republicans have become less and less likely than Democrats to say they’re extremely concerned they will get COVID-19 and require hospitalization. Recent weekly surveys by the Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group echo this finding, showing that Americans continue to be divided by party on whether it’s a good idea for states to close businesses and restrict travel in response to the pandemic.

Hetherington’s team is still in the process of publishing the third wave of their research, which was completed just before Trump’s diagnosis became public, but in an email Hetherington shared with us some preliminary findings, including that the share of Republicans who are somewhat or very concerned about COVID-19 fell from 63 percent in March to 48 percent in September. Meanwhile, Republican support for stay-at-home orders and business closures fell even more dramatically during that period.

It’s worth noting, though, that Hetherington’s team also found some startling gaps between what individuals said they were doing and their support for those government-enforced public health measures. By September, for instance, 85 percent of Republicans said they were wearing masks in public indoors “very often,” although only 71 percent supported government-imposed mask mandates (and support for stay-at-home orders and business closures was even lower).

It’s not impossible for these attitudes to reverse course, though. A study conducted in March found that the partisan divide on risk perception and health behavior did narrow after a number of conservative politicians announced they were self-quarantining after possible exposure to the virus and the White House released social distancing guidelines. And research by Hetherington suggests that Americans become more supportive of policies like mask mandates when they are more afraid that the virus could affect them personally — which could, in theory, happen as a result of Trump’s illness.

But Hetherington said he thinks it will take more than Trump becoming sick — or even being hospitalized — for us to see really big or lasting changes in Republicans’ attitudes. In part, that’s because he expected Republican views to shift over the summer, when COVID-19 cases began to spike in areas of the country where more Republicans live. That’s not what happened, though. In fact, according to his surveys, Republicans actually got less concerned about the threat of the virus during that period.

“If the attitude is [COVID-19] is just something we’ve got to tough out,’ will Trump getting the virus really change that?” Hetherington asked. More likely it will depend, he said, on just how long Trump remains hospitalized, and how his health fares over the next few weeks.

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Pogba’s United future: No Sanchez-style pay bump

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Paul Pogba’s Manchester United future is the subject of this week’s ESPN’s Insider Notebook. PLUS: Axel Tuanzebe shows captain material.

Jump to: Tuanzebe a United captain in waiting | Fabinho set for new Liverpool deal | Hazard warning for Madrid | Tuchel wanted Suarez, PSG said no | Bale’s golf course bail out | Euro League doesn’t worry elite leagues

United won’t break bank to keep Pogba

Manchester United have warned Paul Pogba they are not willing to give him a bumper pay rise to keep him at Old Trafford, sources told ESPN.

The club are keen to extend Pogba’s stay with a new long-term deal, but sources have said it will have to be a reasonable offer. After finally getting Alexis Sanchez off the books in the summer with his permanent move to Inter Milan, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are in agreement the wage structure will not be broken for any player, including Pogba.

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– Laurens: Pogba’s United troubles
– Dawson: Sanchez’s United nightmare

Sanchez still had two years left on his mammoth contract at United — worth around £400,000-a-week before bonuses — before he left and the club saved close to £40 million in wages by negotiating a deal with Inter and ending his stay early. Pogba would be given a pay rise on his £270,000-a-week deal if he signs a new contract, but intermediaries involved in preliminary talks have been clear that, despite Pogba’s high profile, Woodward and Solskjaer will not be offering extortionate wages to convince him to stay. A “Sanchez-style” contract is out of the question.

Sources said United are “relaxed” about Pogba’s future and Woodward remains open to allowing the 27-year-old to run into the final year of his deal if fresh terms cannot be agreed. United recently exercised their option to extend Pogba’s deal at the club until 2022. Based on that option the France international would be allowed to open negotiations with teams outside the Premier League from January 2022 and leave on a free the following summer.

Meanwhile, the player faces a battle to win back his place in Solskjaer’s team after being left on the bench for back-to-back victories against Newcastle and Paris Saint-Germain. Sources said Pogba hasn’t yet made a decision about where his future lies, although he has publicly courted interest from Real Madrid, saying during the international break it would be “a dream” to sign for the Spanish giants. Former club Juventus have also expressed interest in the past. — Rob Dawson

Mbappe silenced as Tuanzebe shows captain material

Axel Tuanzebe‘s impressive performance while marking Kylian Mbappe during Manchester United‘s 2-1 Champions League victory against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday was no surprise to United boss Solskjaer, who believes the 22-year-old is a future captain of the club due to his qualities on and off the pitch, sources told ESPN.

– Ogden: Mbappe silenced, Rashford a hero again

Solskjaer and his coaches have identified the need for the United squad to be more vocal and demanding of each other, and the signings this year of Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani have been made with that requirement factored in, with both players possessing the leadership qualities demanded by the manager.

But despite being restricted to fewer than 20 first-team appearances for United as a result of injury and two season-long loan spells at Aston Villa, Tuanzebe’s character and readiness to challenge his teammates has been noted by Solskjaer and senior figures at Old Trafford.

Tuanzebe captained United in the Carabao Cup win against Rochdale in September 2019, with Solskjaer handing the youngster the armband ahead of more experienced starters including Pogba, Phil Jones and Jesse Lingard.

Solskjaer justified the surprise decision at the time by saying: “It is just a way of telling Axel that we trust him,” but sources said that United’s faith in Tuanzebe runs much deeper and his leadership qualities, combined with his pace and his ability to read the game, mark him out to be a first-team regular and a player with the attributes to become captain in the long-term. — Mark Ogden

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ESPN FC’s Craig Burley says Solskjaer had the guts to make the moves that his PSG counterpart didn’t.

Fabinho set for Liverpool contract talks

Liverpool midfielder Fabinho is set for talks over a new deal after the Brazil international became a key player for Jurgen Klopp’s side, sources told ESPN.

Fabinho, 27, still has two years left on the contract he signed when he joined Liverpool from Monaco for €50m in 2018, but he has become such an important player that he is set to be rewarded with a new deal.

After joining on July 1, he didn’t make his first appearance until Sept. 18 and waited until Oct. 18 for his Premier League debut as Klopp integrated him into Liverpool’s culture and playing style. Since he secured a place in the team, though, he played a huge part in Liverpool winning the Champions League in 2019 and the Premier League in 2020.

He has become one of Europe’s best holding midfielders and his versatility makes him indispensable to Liverpool, who used him at centre-back for the 1-0 Champions League win against Ajax on Wednesday with Virgil van Dijk ruled out through injury. — Julien Laurens

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Steve Nicol believes Liverpool players need to move on and put aside Virgil van Dijk’s absence.

Hazard warning for Real Madrid over injury fears

There’s growing concern at Real Madrid over Eden Hazard‘s latest injury setback, with the €100m forward facing another longer-than-expected layoff which could see him absent until after the next international break.

Hazard was last named in a matchday squad on Sept. 30 for Madrid’s La Liga game with Real Valladolid — due to be his first appearance of the season — but he was withdrawn hours before kick off with a muscular problem in his right leg. An initial diagnosis suggested he would miss three to four weeks, but coach Zinedine Zidane admitted this week that “his injury was a bit more than we thought.”

Since then, the Belgium international had been targeting Madrid’s Champions League clash with Inter on Nov. 3 for a return, but the club would prefer to wait rather than risk another relapse. That means Hazard might not feature until the trip to Villarreal on Nov. 22, after the upcoming round of international matches.

Hazard has suffered one injury blow after another — fracturing his ankle playing against Paris Saint-Germain last November and requiring surgery after a repeat of the same injury against Levante in February — since moving to the Bernabeu from Chelsea in 2019, describing last season as “the worst of my career” and facing repeated questions from the media over his form and fitness. — Alex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez

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Ale Moreno wonders if Eden Hazard will go down as a bad signing for Real Madrid due to injury concerns.

Tuchel wanted Suarez, PSG said no

PSG coach Thomas Tuchel wanted to sign Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger and striker Luis Suarez from Barcelona during the summer transfer window as he looked to strengthen the Champions League finalists’ squad ahead of another tilt at European glory this season.

However, sporting director Leonardo was not keen and vetoed moves for both, much to the disappointment of Tuchel.

Sources told ESPN that the pair clashed over transfers during the summer window and tensions between the pair have increased after the club were beaten 2-1 at home by Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday.

A couple of weeks ago, Tuchel publicly moaned about the lack of arrivals, with Leonardo responding that he must “respect the choices of the sports management” amid speculation that Mauricio Pochettino and Massimiliano Allegri are options to replace Tuchel on the PSG bench.

Sources said that the manager thinks Leonardo didn’t do enough to strengthen PSG’s squad and doesn’t understand why the sporting director was not keen on Rudiger, who would have come on loan, and Suarez, who left Barca for free, so tensions continue. — Julien Laurens

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Frank Leboeuf reacts to the latest in a public feud between PSG manager Thomas Tuchel and director Leonardo.

Bale out, bail out: Welshman’s favourite golf course needs help

Gareth Bale‘s favourite Madrid golf course has had to be bailed out of financial trouble just weeks after its most high-profile customer left for a return to the Premier League with Tottenham.

Golf fanatic Bale was a regular at the swanky Golf Santander complex, near his home to the west of Madrid, during his seven-year stay in the Spanish capital. Bale was even reported to have taken to the greens in August while his then-Real Madrid teammates were preparing for a must-win Champions League knockout tie with Manchester City, after refusing to travel.

The 18-hole course in upmarket Boadilla del Monte was designed by the legendary, late Seve Ballesteros — winner of five majors — and has consistently been named one of Europe’s best.

Now its backer, Banco Santander, has approved a €9.1m capital reduction to compensate for losses caused by significant recent investment in the facilities, as well as 2020’s drop in international tourism.

A spokesman for the bank told ESPN the move was a “mere accounting adjustment” in the company that runs the course alongside its other sporting centres used by employees and the public. — Alex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez

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Mark Ogden believes talks of a European Premier League are far too optimistic to be true at the moment.

Top leagues not troubled by European Premier League talk

UEFA, along with most leagues and clubs, were caught by surprise when news of a $6 billion (£4.6 billion) European Premier League broke on Wednesday, but sources told ESPN there is little concern among leagues about it. Instead, they see this as a unique opportunity to reshape the global football calendar.

The format of the Champions League for the 2024-27 cycle must be decided next year, with the biggest clubs wanting a larger slice of the financial riches, and to play more games against their top rivals from other leagues.

– Marcotti: How a Super League could happen

UEFA, which stands to lose most from a breakaway if its marquee clubs form a new competition, has condemned the idea of any kind Super League, calling it “boring.” But sources say it is aware that investment firms are circling around football as a relatively safe bet to recover from the coronavirus crisis. In Italy, Serie A is being heavily targeted by CVC Capital Partners and Advent International, who are working together to take a stake in the league’s commercial rights.

While the top clubs may be attracted to go their own way with the promise of a large payday, sources said the top leagues are confident a solution will be found that suits the game as a whole, and that any breakaway would jeopardise plans to find a wider solution.

With FIFA’s international match calendar due for renewal in 2024, along with the Champions League, there may not be another chance to reshape how club and international football fits together for many years.

Sources said that the World Leagues Forum, which represents 41 of the leading leagues around the world, has been in regular dialogue with FIFA and UEFA to discuss the calendar. Talks continue to find a solution for all, but they have not involved any breakaway from UEFA competition from the top clubs. — Dale Johnson

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Report: USC bans WR amid possible fraud probe

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A USC Trojans football player was suspended last month by the school in connection to a possible federal investigation into fraud related to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

Sophomore wide receiver Munir McClain has been suspended since mid-September, his mother, Shan McClain told the Times. But she said the school has not given her or her son a clear reason for the suspension. Michael Blanton, USC’s vice president of ethics and professionalism, told Shan that Munir’s name surfaced in relation to a complaint that had been filed involving USC students and a plan to apply for Employment Development Department benefits, the Times reported.

Munir acknowledged he applied for financial relief from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program but was under the impression he qualified because his source of income — reselling high-end shoes — had dried up during the pandemic, the Times reported. A lawyer representing the McClain family told the Times they planned to challenge the suspension.

“We are cooperating with the authorities,” USC said in a statement. “We understand there may be many questions and concerns, but we are unable to discuss this matter because of our obligation to protect students’ privacy.”

Earlier this week, federal agents visited Munir’s dorm looking for his older brother and roommate, redshirt sophomore linebacker Abdul-Malik McClain, the Times reported. He wasn’t home, so an agent left behind a card that identified her as a special agent with the U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General and Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

The Times reported that other USC football players have recently received similar visits from federal agents inquiring about Munir McClain.

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Trojans WR to appeal suspension, lawyer says

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A USC Trojans football player was suspended last month by the school in connection to a possible federal investigation into fraud related to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

Sophomore receiver Munir McClain has been suspended since mid-September, his mother, Shan McClain told the Times. But she said the school has not given her nor her son a clear reason for the suspension. Michael Blanton, USC’s vice president of ethics and professionalism, told Shan that Munir’s name surfaced in relation to a complaint that had been filed involving USC students and a plan to apply for Employment Development Department benefits, the Times reported.

Munir acknowledged he applied for financial relief from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program but was under the impression he qualified because his source of income — reselling high-end shoes — had dried up during the pandemic, the Times reported. A lawyer representing the McClain family told the Times they planned to challenge the suspension.

“We are cooperating with the authorities,” USC said in a statement. “We understand there may be many questions and concerns, but we are unable to discuss this matter because of our obligation to protect students’ privacy.”

Earlier this week, federal agents visited Munir’s dorm looking for his older brother and roommate, redshirt sophomore linebacker Abdul-Malik McClain, the Times reported. He wasn’t home, so an agent left behind a card that identified her as a special agent with the U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General and Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

The Times reported other USC football players have recently received similar visits from federal agents inquiring about Munir McClain.

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