But with one month left until the U.S. presidential election, it is unclear what — if any — effect that diagnosis could have on the divisive and unpredictable campaign playing out south of the border.
Keiran Pedley, director of politics for Ipsos MORI in the U.K., said the polling firm noted an uptick in public sympathy for Johnson that translated — briefly — into stronger polling among voters.
However, it didn’t last long.
“What we did see was a lot of public sympathy for the prime minister,” said Pedley, noting that before Johnson went into hospital, only 34 per cent of the British public had a favourable opinion of him in March polling.
When Johnson left hospital the following month, his favourability rating stood at 51 per cent.
Forty-five per cent reported feeling favourably towards Johnson in the May polling, while by June, those numbers were back down to 39 per cent feeling favourable towards him.
“What we can say for absolute certainty is it was an outpouring of public sympathy for the prime minister that quickly dissipated,” Pedley said, but noted it’s difficult to predict whether a similar effect could happen in American politics because of Trump’s diagnosis.
The contentious political climate in the U.S. combined with the volatility of a once-in-a-generation event like a pandemic makes any attempts at forecasting what could happen next month a challenging task.
The political situations in the U.K. and U.S. at the time of each leader’s diagnosis are also starkly different: while the U.S. is in the midst of a campaign with highly entrenched voter intentions, the U.K. had already had its own election several months prior, in December 2019.
The nature of the virus itself also makes predictions difficult.
Trump, at the age of 74, is in a demographic that has so far seen more serious effects from the virus. He is also overweight — just shy of the medical classification for obesity — with high cholesterol and infrequent exercise, as well as some evidence of heart disease.
But not everyone who contracts the virus or even suffers serious symptoms dies. Johnson himself had serious symptoms and was hospitalized in intensive care, which led to the leadership of the country being temporarily designated to foreign secretary Dominic Raab.
The virus, however, can move quickly as it attacks its infected host.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told journalists on Friday morning that Trump is so far exhibiting “mild symptoms” of the virus, and Melania Trump also tweeted she was feeling similar effects.
“The American people can rest assured that we have a president that is not only on the job, will remain on the job and I’m optimistic that he’ll have a very quick and speedy recovery,” said Meadows.
Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife have tested negative for the virus.
With 31 days left until the election on Nov. 3, Trump is trailing Democratic candidate and former vice-president Joe Biden in the polls.
Biden’s campaign said on Friday that he has tested negative for the virus.
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