Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.
Boris Johnson declared July 19 would be COVID “Freedom Day” in England, the day when virtually all remaining- COVID restrictions were relaxed. Freedom Day only applied to England, with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland retaining some restrictions.
Over 88% of UK adults have received a first dose of COVID vaccination, and over 72% have received both doses (fully vaccinated). About 95% of English aged over 55 are fully vaccinated. The vaccination coverage for the elderly, who are most vulnerable to COVID, explains Johnson’s Freedom Day.
The government could have given younger people more opportunity to be vaccinated, but they wanted to have Freedom Day during summer, when there are fewer complications from cold weather.
After peaking at over 54,000 daily cases on July 17, two days before Freedom Day, UK daily cases declined to 23,500 last Tuesday. On Thursday, cases rose to over 31,000, but have fallen every day since to below 22,000 Monday. The government and many epidemiologists had predicted daily cases would rise to over 100,000 after Freedom Day.
While cases had nearly increased to their January peaks on July 17, the rolling seven-day COVID death average has only increased to 75. That’s a massive reduction from the horrific January peak when the seven-day average was over 1,200 deaths. The UK’s vaccination program has clearly worked in reducing the severity of COVID for elderly people.
In national polls conducted the week after Freedom Day, the Conservative lead over Labour fell from the high single to low double digits to only two to five points, likely owing to public disapproval of the perceived recklessness of Freedom Day. But with daily COVID cases roughly halving instead of doubling, it is likely that the Conservatives will soon regain a large lead.
German election: September 26
The German federal election will be held on September 26. The conservative CDU/CSU has governed since 2005, with assistance from the centre-left SPD in three of those four terms. Parties require at least 5% to qualify for the proportional allocation of seats.
A few months ago, the Greens were doing much better, and the combined vote for the left parties (SPD, Greens and far-left Left) was just ahead of the combined right vote (CDU/CSU, far-right AfD and pro-business FDP). But the CDU/CSU has since regained ground at the Greens’ expense, and the right is now ahead by about a 50-43 margin. The Left party is at 6-7%, close to the threshold.
While no other party will work with the AfD, any government would need to include a right-wing party on current polls. I believe Germans were dissatisfied with their vaccination rollout, but are now better disposed, as over 51% of Germany’s population is fully vaccinated; the denominator includes children. The recovery of the CDU/CSU has implications for the Australian Coalition’s recovery once vaccinations are at a high level.
Biden’s ratings steady as US suffers “pandemic of the unvaccinated”
Over six months into Joe Biden’s presidency, the FiveThirtyEight aggregate gives him 51.5% approval and 43.4% disapproval (net +8.1%). With registered or likely voters, Biden’s ratings are 51.0% approval, 44.5% disapproval (net +6.5%). Biden’s ratings have been steady, but there has been a little recent decline. On net approval, Biden is ahead of Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford at this point in their presidencies.
NBC News has two maps, one showing where US COVID cases are rising fastest, and one showing the unvaccinated percentage in each state. There is correlation between these two series, but there have been large rises in Florida and California, which are both close to the fully vaccinated share of the national population (49.2%). Most states with current large outbreaks voted for Trump in 2020, but California is the exception. According to a US ABC hospital survey, 94% of COVID ICU patients were unvaccinated.
An economic danger for Biden is inflation. The US Consumer Price Index has increased 2.9% in the four months to June, for a total increase of 5.4% since June 2020. High inflation undermines wage growth. Most analysts believe current inflation is transitory, and will ease as supply chains are ramped up.