Traditional conservatives are rethinking their views in light of Covid-19

The American flag illuminates a street in Times Square amid the Covid-19 pandemic on April 30, 2020.

Stephen Hawkins is the director of research for More in Common, a nonpartisan research and civic nonprofit, and Dan Vallone is the US director for More in Common. The views expressed in this commentary are their own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)The Covid-19 pandemic struck at a time when political polarization in the US is at record levels. At first glance, Americans' experiences of the virus confirm a story of a deeply divided nation. Research has consistently shown partisan identity to be among the strongest predictors of Americans' divergent responses to the virus, and extensive coverage of protests against lockdown orders vividly dramatizes the red-versus-blue dynamic.

Stephen Hawkins
Dan Vallone
When we look beneath the headlines, however, there are signs of an emerging story of solidarity that cuts across our polarized politics. The leading actors in this story are members of the "Traditional Conservative" segment we identified in our 2018 report, "Hidden Tribes: A Study of America's Polarized Landscape."
    Traditional Conservatives are staunch Republicans -- 87% voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 86% voted for a Republican candidate in the 2018 midterms -- and constitute almost 20% of the adult population overall and approximately 39% of Americans who identify as Republican.
    Despite this strong political identity, members of the Traditional Conservative segment are now responding to Covid-19 through a social and community lens, rather than a partisan filter.
    If this shift endures, it could have significant implications -- not just for the 2020 election but for the strength of America's social fabric.
    When we published "Hidden Tribes" two years ago, we identified seven distinct segments of the American population. We described four segments as comprising the "Exhausted Majority" because, while ideologically and demographically diverse, they shared a set of common features: They were fed up with hyper-partisan politics, felt like their voices were not heard and wanted our country to come together. We put a spotlight on this group as a potential force to reduce polarization in politics and foster a spirit of collaboration.
    Traditional Conservatives -- along with the "Progressive Activist" (8% of the population) and "Devoted Conservative" (6% of the population) segments -- were not part of the Exhausted Majority in 2018 because of the intensity of their partisan identity and inve