Governors' COVID Response Approval Ratings Speak Volumes on Importance of Media Coverage


I knew the cultural fix was in when the term “Cuomosexual” began trending.

A Cuomosexual, in case you’re not familiar with it, is someone who feels a parasocial relationship with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a level that rises above platonic. The term appeared during Cuomo’s interminable daily news conferences on the coronavirus crisis in the Empire State, which were covered breathlessly by the media and treated as if they were an antidote to President Donald Trump’s briefings.

“This [Cuomosexual] brigade has some high-profile members,” The Economist reported in July. “Trevor Noah of ‘The Daily Show’ declared himself a Cuomosexual live on ‘The Ellen Show’ – the host, Ellen Degeneres, replied ‘I feel like I’m a Cuomosexual too.’ Randy Rainbow, an American comedian, has written a song and launched a clothing line dedicated to the governor: in bright pink typeface jumpers, vests and t-shirts declare, ‘From now on I identify as a Cuomosexual.’ He sells Cuomosexual mugs, face masks and tote bags, too. At the time of writing, Andrew Cuomo is still believed to be single.”

Cuomo isn’t the only governor to receive fawning coverage from the national media, but he was the most prominent. Democrat Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Phil Murphy of New Jersey also had anchors at MSNBC and CNN acting as de facto press secretaries for almost everything they did.

Contrast this with the kind of coverage bestowed on GOP Govs. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Ron DeSantis of Florida, both of whom were excoriated for not imposing the kind of restrictions seen in New York, New Jersey and Michigan, refusing to embrace the possibility of another lockdown and realizing the economy was an important vector in COVID-19 policy. There were no DeSantisexual memes. (Which is probably for the best, but I would find both neologisms nauseating.)

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If this kind of coverage isn’t surprising, given the leftist bent of the mainstream media, also unsurprising are the poll numbers for said governors.

According to a survey by the not-easily-acronymned COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States, the three Democratic governors mentioned haven’t lost much electoral steam over the past five months. All three have approval ratings in the 60s and have only lost a few points despite a host of issues with their leadership.

Meanwhile, DeSantis and Kemp have both experienced 17 point drops over that point and have approval ratings of 29 and 36 percent, respectively.

The consortium — which is made up of researchers from Northeastern University, Harvard, Rutgers and Northwestern University and has tracked responses to COVID-related questions across states since this spring — surveyed 21,196 between Aug. 7 and Aug. 26. Residents of individual states were asked how they viewed their governor’s performances. The margin of error varied by state.

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In this iteration of the survey, the news release noted that three governors in particular took a beating, two of them Democrats. Virginia’s Ralph Northam and California’s Gavin Newsom took steep drops, with Northam going from 59 percent in July to 46 percent in August and Newsom going from 58 percent to 47 percent over the same period. Both California and Virginia are dealing with recent spikes in infection rates. However, as the news release noted, DeSantis was also among the big losers, going “from an already low 40% to 29%.

“Notably, despite the general stability in presidential approval, Trump’s approval in Florida of his management of COVID-19 also dropped sharply, from 39% to 29%,” the consortium reported.

Over the April-August period, DeSantis went from 46 percent approval to 29 percent, a 17-point drop.

The losses for Kemp were just as steep. In April, 53 percent of respondents approved of his handling of COVID-19. In August, that was 36 percent.

Meanwhile, the triumvirate of Democrat media darlings did just fine — in spite of the fact all three led states with a higher death rate per capita than either of the two Republicans.

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In New York, Gov. Cuomo has gone from 70 percent approval to 61 percent approval on COVID. This is a 9-point loss, but it still shows widespread approval for a man who ordered sick seniors back into nursing homes where they could infect more of the elderly with the potentially fatal illness.

This was essentially scattering embers among kindling and the estimated number of COVID-19 deaths inside New York’s care homes was 6,600 as of August. However, that estimate was clouded by the fact New York only counted those who died on nursing home property, according to The Associated Press, and not those who died in the hospital or elsewhere. Cuomo said there would be no independent investigation of the nursing homes because, he said at an Aug. 10 news conference, “I think you’d have to be blind to realize it’s not political.”

“There is no such thing as a person who is trusted by all Democrats and Republicans,” Cuomo said, according to Breitbart News. “That person doesn’t exist. The Department of Health, those are just numbers. They report on numbers. You can see what you want in the numbers, but the numbers are the numbers.”

This preposterous reasoning — which, if it were a legitimate excuse for preempting an investigation, would mean no political act could ever be officially probed — received barely any coverage in the media. Once the words dropped from Cuomo’s mouth, they were reported in local media and then promptly forgotten.

However, Justice Department investigators must think they’re suitably trustworthy to review the facts, given that they’ve opened an investigation into Cuomo’s nursing home policies. New York state Democrats are also looking into it; one hopes Cuomo finds them suitable enough, given they’re of his own party.

And this is merely the worst thing Cuomo has done during the pandemic. I haven’t even mentioned the fact he used prison labor to bottle hand sanitizer that he passed off as being produced by the state, or the fact that he told those in abusive households that during the lockdown “[i]t’s not just about you,” even though incidents of domestic violence might be on the rise. And he’s still at 61 percent.

In Michigan, Whitmer actually gained popularity, going from 62 percent in April to 64 percent in August. This was in spite of the fact her state implemented arbitrary lockdown measures, like stopping residents from buying gardening supplies, furniture, rugs or paint in big-box stores. She raged at anti-lockdown protests and even had her attorney general put out a profoundly condescending video and tweets seething about people (particularly white people) who wanted to golf.

New Jersey’s Murphy is another governor being investigated for nursing home deaths by the Department of Justice, along with Whitmer and Cuomo. He’s been busy making examples out of gym owners who want to stay open with limited capacity by very publicly using his power to crush them. He’s gone from 65 percent in April to 60 percent.

But here’s the important part: The death rate per 1 million people, as per Worldmeters.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo — Democrat, New York, 61 percent coronavirus performance approval. COVID-19 deaths per 1 million people: 1,704, second-worst in the nation.
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — Democrat, Michigan, 64 percent coronavirus performance approval. COVID-19 deaths per 1 million people: 694, 10th worst in the nation.
  • Gov. Phil Murphy — Democrat, New Jersey, 60 percent coronavirus performance approval. COVID-19 deaths per 1 million people: 1,820, worst in the nation.
  • Gov. Ron DeSantis — Republican, Florida, 29 percent coronavirus performance approval. COVID-19 deaths per 1 million people: 594, 17th worst in the nation.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp — Republican, Georgia, 36 percent coronavirus performance approval. COVID-19 deaths per 1 million people: 603, 15th worst in the nation.

Correlation isn’t causation. The fact that Cuomo, Whitmer and Murphy tend to be mainstream media heroes while Kemp and (especially) DeSantis are constant punching bags for the likes of CNN and The New York Times — “They’ve opened too soon!” “Millennials on the beach!” “Why won’t they shut down?” “Why won’t they listen to the scientists?” — doesn’t necessarily mean that’s why the approval ratings for Kemp and DeSantis numbers are so low.

However, it’s curious that three politicians who are bathed in the soft, gauzy light of mainstream media worship — the kind of worship that made the term “Cuomosexual” possible — have also avoided any real consequences in the polls for how they mismanaged their states during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the media’s chosen villains have low approval ratings despite relatively better performance. Quelle surprise.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture