Just shy of 1 in 5 Americans say they’ve gotten into an argument with someone over the way they were responding to the coronavirus outbreak, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds. At the same time, a majority of people feel that they’re taking the outbreak about as seriously as most others around them.
Nineteen percent of Americans say they’ve argued with someone else about the coronavirus outbreak, according to the poll, either because they thought the other person wasn’t taking things seriously enough, or because they thought they were taking things too seriously. A few managed to end up on both sides of the argument.
In some cases, the arguments reflected a modern role reversal: adult children begging their parents to stay home.
“My dad thinks that the coronavirus is exaggerated to discredit Trump,” wrote one 25-year-old man surveyed. “I said whether that’s real or not, he still needs to take precautions.”
“My senior mom, who has diabetes, thought I was exaggerating when I told her it’s too risky to go to public places without using disinfectant wipes … [and] that she should not be touching doorknobs or gates with her bare hands,” a woman in California reported. “After her doctor advised her to stay indoors, though, she’s come around.”
But the disagreements also came in reverse, with parents chastising their children, or grandparents worrying that their grandchildren weren’t taking the disease seriously. “My son left the house to go meet friends. I told him he was vulnerable. He said, ‘I’m 17, I’m fine,’” wrote one father.
Others argued with siblings. “My brother went to a crowded bar the night before they were all closed,” said a 22-year-old woman living in Washington state. “I told him to go home and that he was being stupid and he told me to calm down.”
So far, opinions on the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak are most starkly divided not by age or region, but along familiar partisan lines.
Concerns about the virus also prompted arguments between friends: “My friend took her 94-year-old mother who is on hospice care to the casinos in Biloxi for a week. Stupid.”
Neighbors also disagreed: “One had been ill but he claims he’s healthy because he’s younger and exercises. ... I am over 65 and have health issues. I told him he needs to do his part as he could kill me if he doesn’t do his part. He just yelled at me and cussed me out.”
There was also conflict between co-workers: “A month ago I went to my bosses and asked them if we were getting ready for what was coming. They called me hysterical!”
Meanwhile, some respondents said they felt overly hectored by family, friends or partners whose worries are more pronounced.
“I’m 66 and my oldest kid is 46,” wrote one Washington state woman. “He’s hounding me daily with articles and charts and warnings. We’ve hunkered down and are self-isolating and I’ve told him his tactics are causing anxiety.”
“I have perfectly healthy young friends/relatives fearing for their lives and afraid to death,” wrote an Idaho woman in her 50s. “I’m trying to convince them to be safe but live their life.”
Wrote one Texas man: “Wife is taking this way too seriously to the point where I am completely annoyed with her.”
So far, opinions on the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak are most starkly divided not by age or region, but along familiar partisan lines. Given that people often tend to congregate in like-minded social circles, it makes sense that many Americans say their risk assessments are shared by those around them.
Roughly half of Americans ― 49% ― say that, in terms of the precautions they’re taking against coronavirus, they’re about as concerned as most other people in their community. A 54% majority say their attitude is similar to that of most of their friends, and 57% say their attitude is similar to most of their family.
Among those currently in a relationship, 62% say that they are about equally concerned by the outbreak. (Of those who disagree with their significant other, about one-third say the disparity has caused at least minor relationship problems.)
Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to say they’re more concerned than most others in their family, and about one and a half times likelier to say they’re more concerned than most of their friends, with similar disparities not evident along gender or generational lines.
An additional divide comes not from Americans’ political views, but from their level of attention to the news. People who say they follow what’s going on in government and public affairs most of the time are 12 percentage points likelier than those who pay less attention to see themselves as more concerned than those in the community around them ― a slightly wider gap than between Democrats and Republicans on the same question.
Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups:
Some quotes given in response to the survey were lightly edited for clarity and grammar.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted March 17-19 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.
Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.
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