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A healthcare worker blocks a demonstrator at an anti-lockdown protest in Denver. (Photo: Alyson McClaran/@shafieikeyvan)

Majority of Americans Reject 'Astroturf' Anti-Lockdown Protests, Say Social Distancing Orders Must Remain in Place to Fight Pandemic

Only 13% of respondents to a CBS survey said they would return to public spaces in the next few weeks if their cities and states encouraged them to do so.

Julia Conley

Despite wall-to-wall corporate media coverage of anti-social distancing demonstrations in Michigan, Texas, and other parts of the U.S., new polling from CBS News shows that the vast majority of Americans oppose demands from the protesters who are demanding that U.S. businesses be reopened as soon as possible despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The survey, which has a margin of error of 2.5 points, found that 63% of the 2,112 respondents polled were concerned that the U.S. economy would reopen too quickly—not too slowly.

The poll results come as some Republican governors are pushing to reopen states in the coming days. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said Monday he would allow some businesses to reopen on April 24, nearly a week before the state's stay-at-home order officially ends. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, urged residents on Wednesday to "look at the science" and stay home despite Kemp's order.

Only 13% of respondents said they would return to public spaces in the next few weeks even if their cities and states encouraged them to by ordering restaurants and other businesses to reopen. As the death toll from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, approaches 43,000 in the U.S., 70% told CBS that social distancing must be the top priority for the country—not sending Americans back to work and daily life outside their homes, even though this may harm the economy in the short term. 

Respondents across the political spectrum agreed that the economy should remain shut down, with 46% of Republicans opposing the anti-lockdown protesters versus 43% who supported them. Of Democrats, 82% opposed the protesters, joined by 62% of independents. Three in four respondents, including majorities of all three groups, said social distancing is effectively slowing down the spread of the virus. 

News outlets have heavily covered demonstrations including "Operation Gridlock" in Michigan, in which people created a traffic jam around the state capitol and called on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to lift the state's stay-at-home order. 

About 4,000 people attended the demonstration, according to the Michigan State Police, while about 500 went to a similar protest in Sacramento on Monday.    

Author Michael Booth urged journalists to keep in mind the widespread belief among Americans that social distancing must be maintained for the time-being when reporting on the anti-lockdown protests.

As Common Dreams reported, "Operation Gridlock" was organized not by concerned citizens at the grassroots level but by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the Michigan Freedom Fund, a group backed by President Donald Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

"As was the case with the Tea Party movement," reported the New York Times Wednesday, "established national groups that generally align with the Republican Party have sought to fuel the protests, harnessing their energy in a manner that can increase their profiles and build their membership base and donor rolls." 

Rather than reflecting widespread concerns about stay-at-home orders, Atlantic writer Amanda Mull wrote on Twitter, the anti-lockdown protests are a product of powerful right-wing groups which are putting the lives of demonstrators at risk to serve corporate interests. 

"Turns out it's kinda hard to astroturf people into voluntarily catching the plague for capitalism," Mull tweeted.

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