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Voters Reject ‘Amnesty’ For Big Mistakes Made During COVID: I&I/TIPP Poll

A recent online magazine article proposed a controversial idea: Those government and private officials who might have made serious errors during the COVID-19 pandemic should be granted “amnesty” for their mistakes. Will it fly? As the latest I&I/TIPP Poll shows, the answer is “not likely.”

The article in question, Let’s Declare a Pandemic Amnesty, appeared in the Oct. 31 online edition of The Atlantic. Specifically, the article, written by Brown University economist Emily Oster (who herself was heavily criticized for supporting school reopenings during COVID) urged:

We have to put these fights aside and declare a pandemic amnesty. We can leave out the willful purveyors of actual misinformation while forgiving the hard calls that people had no choice but to make with imperfect knowledge.

But Americans mostly disagree with that idea, according to the latest national I&I/TIPP Poll, conducted online from a sampling of 1,359 adults from Nov. 2-4. The poll has a margin of error of +/-2.8 percentage points.

We asked: “Some say we should have ‘amnesty’ for those who made big mistakes during the COVID-19 pandemic. To what extent do you agree or disagree?”

Some 35% of all respondents said they either “agree strongly” (12%) or “agree somewhat” (23%), according to the poll.

But the “disagrees” were slightly larger, at 39%, with most saying they “disagree strongly” (21%), compared to those who said they “disagree somewhat” (18%). A significantly large 26% of all respondents said they were “not sure.”

Not surprisingly, there were once again sharp political and demographic cleavages evident in the poll’s responses.

The clearest difference arose between Democrats, Republicans and independents. By, 48% to 30%, Democrats favored the amnesty idea. Republicans and independents were almost exactly the opposite: Just 27% of Republicans and independents agreed that there should be a general amnesty, while 49% of GOP followers and 42% of independents disagreed.

Sorted by age, differences varied widely: Among the 18-24-year-olds, 47% favored amnesty. That number kicked up to 52% for those from 25-44. But it falls off sharply after that, with just 26% of the 45-64 cohort supporting amnesty, and even fewer — 17% — among those 65 and older.

Another big split came among men and women. Men slightly favored the idea by 41% to 39%, while women were more strongly against it, 30% saying they agree to 40% saying they didn’t.

Race was another point of difference: Just 27% of white respondents agreed with the amnesty idea, while twice that level — 54% — of blacks and Hispanics agreed. The comparable figures for disagreement were 45% for whites, but just 26% for blacks and Hispanics.

The big point from the data is that this is yet another major political and cultural split among Americans. Whether the amnesty idea gains any steam in Congress will depend on the final outcome of midterm congressional elections, still not fully counted.

Regardless, however, Americans have strong feelings about the two years of lockdowns, masking and other restrictions that came with fighting the COVID-19 bug.

Jeffrey Tucker, co-founder of the libertarian Brownstone Institute recently summed up the case for not giving amnesty:

(Thirty) months later, we are experiencing the longest period of declining real income since the end of World War II, a health crisis, an education crisis, an exploding national debt, 40-year high inflation, continued and seemingly random shortages, dysfunction in labor markets, a breakdown of international trade, a dramatic collapse in consumer confidence, and a dangerous level of political division.

Economist Robert G. Graboyes agrees, pushing in a Substack column for investigations into what happened and why: “Amnesty no. Truth and Reconciliation yes.And numerous others, among them the American Council on Science and Health, agree.

And many say that it will only compound the errors made if there is no accountability.

However, the pro-amnesty side, as typified by Oster’s original controversial article, says it’s a waste of energy and divisive to turn the COVID response into another skirmish in our ongoing national culture wars.

“These discussions are heated, unpleasant and, ultimately, unproductive,” Oster argued. “In the face of so much uncertainty, getting something right had a hefty element of luck. And, similarly, getting something wrong wasn’t a moral failing. Treating pandemic choices as a scorecard on which some people racked up more points than others is preventing us from moving forward.”

Ultimately, any action on amnesty or accountability will emerge from the new Congress. If, as now looks highly likely, the Republicans gain a small edge in the House, it’s almost certain that at minimum there will be investigations of the COVID response.

As for the Senate, as far back as last January, there was substantial bipartisan agreement that an inquiry into the response to COVID “similar to the 9/11 Commission” was needed.

But that was then, and this is now, as the saying goes. Following a bitterly fought 2022 midterm election battle, with the Senate still in the hands of Democrats and the size of a likely Republican House majority up in the air, whether there will truly be a comprehensive investigation and accounting for the COVID disaster remains an open question.

I&I/TIPP publishes timely, unique and informative data each month from our polls on this topic and others of public interest. TIPP has a reputation for polling excellence, one that comes from being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.

Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor, and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.

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Terry Jones

Terry Jones was part of Investor's Business Daily from its inception in 1983, working in a variety of posts, including reporter, economics correspondent, National Issues editor and economics editor. Most recently, from 1996 to 2019, he served as associate editor of the newspaper and deputy editor and editor of IBD's Issues & Insights. His many media appearances include spots on the Larry Kudlow, Bill O’Reilly, Dennis Miller, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Glenn Beck shows. He also served as Free Markets columnist for Townhall Magazine, and as a weekly guest on PJTV’s The Front Page. He holds both bachelor's and master's degrees from UCLA, and is an Abraham Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute


  • What exactly are the crimes requiring amnesty? Big Pharma already has congressional amnesty (immunity) for any crimes against humanity resulting from data cover-ups and COVID vaxx injuries and deaths. Killing or injuring people with bad lockdown or COVID jab policies and mandates might violate natural law or ethics, but no criminal law that I know of.

    In any event, we all know that Democrats favor amnesty for fellow Democrats for real crimes (e.g. 2020 riots and looting; where VP Harris, Rep. Waters etc. even helped raise bail money). Dems I talk to in California favor prison for Trump, and when I ask, “For what crimes?” they say it does not matter (they don’t like the guy is reason enough to lock him up). Just as 96% Democrat juries and judges in Washington DC give amnesty to Democrats for everything, and prison sentences to GOP and MAGA for anything. GOP establishment people seem to concur, thinking holding January 6 trepassers in solitary confinement in Washington DC gulag prisons (on par with Baghdad’s infamous prisons) without trial or charges for two years is acceptable. But I guess even raising these issues violates government policies (enforced by the media in the form of cancellations).

    Too bad the poll did not (for whatever reasons) inquire whether the same people favoring hypothetical amnesty for bad COVID policies also favor long DC gulag prison sentences for January 6 trespassers (MAGA political prisoners) or cancellation and job loss for military, government and private industry workers refusing COVID jabs. That schizophrenic dichotomy among voters of all political parties would truly be interesting to explore.

  • good luck holding those accountable for this experiment in how far they can push the “plebs” in asserting total control over us.
    After all, “they” have been cheating in elections for years while they slowly take away our rights as described in the Constitution.

  • We have known for at least 100 years that aerosolized viruses cannot be controlled by generalized lockdowns or masks. Eventually the infection will be felt by almost all the population. That’s why there should be NO amnesty.

  • Trumpists want to punish those who acted according to the evidence available at the time. But they see no fault in Trump’s extreme negligence and lies about COVID.

    • The evidence at the time said, lockdowns wouldn’t work, clothe/surgical masks wouldn’t work, the vaccine wouldn’t stop the spread, school-children are at a very low risk of getting covid and they don’t spread it to their teachers.

      You all ignored the evidence, because, oh my Trump

  • the Amnesty is void if they lied…..they lied therefore there is no amnesty for the drug companies.

  • Oh hell to the no! Parade them thru the streets and put them in stocks. All day in the stocks for a month. Bread and water only.

  • “Will it pass?” Is as stupid a question as believing any polls! It has been proven over and over that when it comes to votes, what the democrats wants is what the outcome is. The will of the people has Nothing to do with voting outcomes anymore!!!

  • You get banned for mentioning something that rhymes with ‘doting’ and that is how we are suppressed!

  • This site is an affront to my First Amendment right. Maybe I should seek restitution.

  • Sure…we let ’em off the hook and then they come back and do the same things again and again, only worse because now they figure they will get amnesty again and again. NO MERCY, ever!

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