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COVID-19 and Public Opinion

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COVID-19 has disrupted life around the globe and called for government intervention to prevent the spread of the virus. IPR researchers find in various survey results that many Americans have been dissatisfied with the government's response to the pandemic at the state and national level.

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Research Roundup

As Latest Relief Package Passes, 1 in 5 Americans Confronts Severe Economic Hardships

A new survey by IPR political scientist James Druckman reveals the dismal scope of many Americans’ economic struggles as Congress approves an eleventh-hour $900 billion pandemic relief package before remaining benefits expire at the end of December. Between November 3 and 30, the researchers asked roughly 20,000 individuals across the United States and Washington, D.C. about five key economic hardships: unemployment, pay cuts, evictions, making rent or a house payment, and stopping or cutting work to take care of children.

As Coronavirus Cases Jump, Illinoisans Slip in Following Public Health Guidelines

November 2020

As COVID-19 cases in Illinois surge past spring’s high point, a new survey examining people’s behaviors in the state shows that colder weather driving people indoors and COVID fatigue are likely behind the virus’ deadly second wave. The number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois has increased sharply over the last two months from about 2,000 cases per day in late September to a seven-day rolling average of roughly 12,000 daily cases since mid-November. “The numbers are not promising in terms of what to expect in the coming months,” said IPR political scientist James Druckman. “It seems that necessary behaviors are slipping, and this could put extreme strain on our healthcare infrastructure.”

Most Americans Support Restrictive Measures to Curb COVID-19

November 2020

Despite differing opinions about whether shutdowns have been effective, new survey results by IPR political scientist James Druckman show 6 in 10 Americans support more restrictive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Following the election, researchers surveyed nearly 20,000 individuals across the nation between November 3 and 23. They asked about seven key restrictions: staying at home, gathering in large groups, closing businesses, limiting restaurants to carry-out, prohibiting in-person K–12 classes, canceling events, and restricting travel. Another survey finds more people are also wearing masks but fewer are staying six feet apart. States with lowest rates of distancing and mask wearing now suffering the worst COVID outbreaks.

Depression Among Young Adults Soars During Pandemic

November 2020

A new survey  of over 8,900 young adults, aged 18–24, across the U.S. finds that they showed higher levels of depression amid the pandemic, no matter their gender, racial or ethnic group, or geographic location. Nearly half  (47%) of those surveyed described having at least moderate symptoms of depression. More urgently, over a third (37%) reported occasional thoughts that they might be better off dead, or had thoughts of harming themselves—a tenfold increase in the rate prior to the pandemic. "In terms of long-term consequences of COVID-19, the mental health of young people may be one of the most important," said IPR political scientist James Druckman, who co-leads the survey. 

Which Issues Top Americans’ Minds as They Vote?

November 2020

As the nation heads into Election Day, a survey  by IPR political scientist James Druckman of more than 20,000 American voters on the most important problems facing the U.S. finds their top answers, including the coronavirus at No. 1 overall, align more with issues that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has focused on during his campaign. The researchers show that COVID-19 topped the list for voters in every state but Alaska, where 16% of respondents chose climate change instead. Other first-picks mentioned were racism (10% ranked it first), the economy (8%), healthcare (7%), and crime and violence (6%).

Older Americans Tweet More Fake News About COVID-19

October 2020

Older Americans and Republicans are more likely to share fake news websites about COVID-19 on Twitter, new research shows. But at the same time, older people are less likely to believe misinformation about the pandemic than younger ones. The researchers, who included IPR political scientist James Druckman, examined over 29.6 million tweets about COVID-19 by 1.6 million registered voters, collected between January 1 and September 30. Previous survey results  in September, revealed that if you get your news from social media, you are more likely to fall for misinformation about coronavirus conspiracies, risk factors, and preventative treatments. 

COVID-19 Testing Speeds Increase

October 2020

The average turnaround time for COVID-19 nasal swab tests decreased from an average of 4 days in April to 2.7 days in September, according to the latest survey results of an ongoing national survey of attitudes about COVID-19 by IPR political scientist James Druckman. Despite the quicker testing speeds, the results are still too slow in most cases to support successful contact tracing. The researchers, who surveyed over 52,300 respondents in July, August, and September, looked at over 8,800 who received a COVID-19 nasal swab test. They found only 56% of those who tested positive for the coronavirus reported being contacted by someone to trace people they had been physically near in the last week. Of those who were notified about possible exposure, 37% said they were contacted by their state government, 28% by their local government, 25% by the hospital, and 8% by a non-profit organization.

Survey Shows Why 2020’s ‘Election Day’ Might Turn into ‘Election Week’

October 2020

A new survey indicates why Americans might see President Trump ahead at the end of election night on November 3, but then see Biden pull ahead and declared the winner by the end the week. IPR political scientist James Druckman and his colleagues, who surveyed more than 20,300 Americans between September 4 and 27, find a substantial increase in the number of those who say they plan to vote using mail-in or absentee ballots. They estimate 82 million voters will cast such ballots in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, or more than six times those that did in 2016. 

As Relief Talks Stall, 80% of Americans Back Passage of a Fifth Coronavirus Bill

October 2020

In the face of stalled talks on a new coronavirus relief package, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a largely symbolic $2.2 trillion one on October 1. A new national survey by IPR political scientist James Druckman finds 80% of Americans support passage of a new relief bill. The survey, conducted between September 4 and 27, asked more than 20,000 Americans for their opinions on the next COVID-19 relief bill. Congress has passed four COVID-19 relief packages totaling $3.4 trillion since the start of the pandemic in the United States, including the latest, the CARES Act, on March 27. The strong support for a fifth bill cuts across party affiliation and race.

Public Trust and Americans’ Willingness to Vaccinate for COVID-19

September 2020

How much do Americans trust politicians, organizations, and others to “do the right thing to best handle the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?” That is a key question of the latest survey of more than 21,000 individuals between August 7 and 26 by IPR political scientist James Druckman. The results show that public trust for 15 government institutions and leaders’ ability to manage the pandemic gradually eroded between late April and August. Four institutions—state government (68%), Congress (42%), the White House (46%), and police (65%)—have seen double-digit declines of between 12 and 13 points in trust since the spring. That said, trust levels for most others like banks and media have stabilized since late July. The erosion of trust has implications for whether or not Americans intend to take a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available. Just under 6 in 10 people surveyed (59%) said they would get a COVID-19 vaccination, a 7-point decline from late July (66%). 

Americans’ Approval of Governors’ Ability to Handle COVID-19 Continues to Decline

September 2020

Governors saw their approval slip to 48% on average in August—a 3% drop from last month, even as President Trump’s edged up slightly—according to the latest survey results looking at Americans’ attitudes and behaviors around COVID-19. In April, Americans’ approval of governors’ management of COVID-19 stood at an average of 63%, according to the survey by IPR political scientist James Druckman. The same survey shows the president’s national approval rating improved slightly from 32% in July to 34% in August—though it stood at 42% in April. 

Americans Not Confident Schools Can Re-Open Safely

August 2020

According to the latest results from an ongoing national survey of attitudes about COVID-19 by IPR political scientist, most Americans do not believe it is safe for K-12 students to return to in-person classes this fall. Only 31% of respondents believe that returning to school is very safe (10%) or somewhat safe (21%). There are differences across groups of Americans, notably by gender and race. For instance, women are less likely to consider returning to school as very or somewhat safe (28% versus 34% for men), as are non-white respondents (19% versus 37% among white respondents).

Most Americans Willing to Vaccinate for COVID-19, While Testing Speeds Lag

August 2020 

According to the latest results from an ongoing national survey of attitudes about COVID-19, two-thirds (66%) of Americans say they are either “somewhat” or “extremely” likely to vaccinate themselves and their children against the novel coronavirus when such a vaccine becomes available. At the same time, Americans are waiting four days on average to find out the results of COVID-19 nasal swab tests, according to survey results collected between July 10 and 26. This is double the ideal amount of time of 1–2 days for effective contact tracing of COVID-19 cases.

Belief in American Exceptionalism Declines

July 2020

According to IPR sociologist Beth Redbird's survey results, there has been a decline in Americans' belief in U.S. exceptionalism compared to other countries when it comes to institutions such as the healthcare system and the economy. Even institutions seemly unaffected by the pandemic, such as the military and the criminal justice system took a hit. Throughout the pandemic, Americans have developed more negative attitudes about the Republican Party, while attitudes about the Democratic Party have largely been stable.

Americans Are Losing Confidence in Government Executives' Ability to Handle COVID-19

July 2020

The latest results from an ongoing survey of Americans' opinions about the COVID-19 pandemic by IPR political scientist James Druckman shows that confidence in executive leadership is declining, with governors seeing a 10-point drop on average in approval from April to June. Just five governors saw increases in approval, in Hawaii, Michigan, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Vermont. Approval for Republican governors is highly polarized: Only four governors overall have approval ratings at 70% or above, and all are Republicans in Democratic-leaning states.

Americans' Trust in the Police and Other Institutions' Ability to Manage the Pandemic is Fading

June 2020

According to results of an ongoing survey of Americans' opinions about COVID-19 by IPR political scientist James Druckman, Americans' trust is fraying in their institutions' ability to respond—especially with regard to the police, in whom trust has fallen by 8% since April. Overall trust in the police in the second half of May was lowest among African Americans, with just 54% saying they have some or a lot of trust, compared to 75% of White respondents, 65% of Hispanic respondents, and 73% of Asian American respondents.

Most Americans Support Vote by Mail During the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 2020

A majority of Americans (60%) support efforts to make it easier to vote by mail in the upcoming November election, including majorities in 46 states, according to the latest report from an ongoing survey of Americans' attitudes about issues related to the coronavirus pandemic. IPR political scientist  James Druckman and his colleagues find people who reported being somewhat or very concerned about getting COVID-19 were significantly more likely to support voting by mail (67%) compared to those who did not share those concerns (48%)—a pattern that held across party lines.

Most Americans Prefer to Wait to Reopen the Country

May 2020

A majority of Americans (60%) continue to prefer that the country wait at least four weeks before reopening, according to a new survey of more than 20,000 Americans between May 2 and 15. But partisan gaps on when to reopen are becoming more prominent. The numbers of Republicans preferring that the country reopen immediately jumped from 9% to 19% since the first wave of the survey, by IPR political scientist James Druckman and colleagues at Harvard,Northeastern, and Rutgers.