Americans' Concerns About Coronavirus Continue To Grow

A look at the latest polling on views of the outbreak.

Americans’ concerns about the coronavirus are continuing to rise sharply, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds, as most of the nation adjusts to a new normal of shuttered schools and workplaces, canceled events and empty public spaces.

About half of Americans, 49%, now say they’re very concerned about the spread of coronavirus in the U.S., up from 35% in a poll taken one week earlier. Eighty percent are at least somewhat concerned.

A partisan gap remains: Democrats are 25 percentage points more likely than Republicans to describe themselves as “very concerned.” That’s down, however, from a 36-point gap last week. Since then, people in both parties have become more alarmed, but Republican opinion has moved more dramatically. With President Trump, who briefly emphasized the seriousness of the situation, now calling ― against expert advice ― for relaxed restrictions, it remains to be seen whether the trend will hold.

About half of Americans now say they're very concerned by the coronavirus outbreak.
About half of Americans now say they're very concerned by the coronavirus outbreak.
Ariel Edwards-Levy/HuffPost

Four in 10 Americans now say they’re very concerned that they or a family member will contract coronavirus, up from 28% in the previous survey; 72% are now at least somewhat concerned by the possibility.

About four in 10 Americans now say they're very concerned they or a family member will come down with the virus.
About four in 10 Americans now say they're very concerned they or a family member will come down with the virus.
Ariel Edwards-Levy/HuffPost

Most Americans Say Their Daily Life Is At Least Somewhat Changed

A 41% plurality of Americans say their daily life has changed a lot since the outbreak began, with 29% saying it’s changed somewhat, 18% it’s changed a little, and 10% that it hasn’t changed much at all.

Most Americans say the outbreak has yet to significantly affect their finances, their eating and exercise habits, and their emotional health. But in each case, a substantial minority are already feeling some strain. A third say their finances are in worse shape than they were before the outbreak started, with 30% saying the same thing about their exercise habits, 26% about their eating habits, and 35% about their emotional health.

Partisanship appears to play a significant role in the response to several questions: Democrats are, for instance, 23 points likelier than Republicans to say that the outbreak has worsened their emotional health. But, notably, an equal three-quarters of both Democrats and Republicans said their daily life had been at least somewhat affected.

Some demographic divides are also evident. City-dwellers are 20 points likelier than those in rural areas to say their daily lives have changed a lot since the start of the outbreak, and are also more prone to report negative changes in their exercise routines and diets.

Americans Give Positive Marks To Government Response

Americans say by a 9-point margin, 50% to 41%, that they approve of the government’s handling of coronavirus, and by a 7-point margin, 49% to 42%, that they approve of President Trump’s response. Trump’s ratings represent a modest uptick from polling a week prior, when the public was close to evenly split on his handling of the outbreak.

Americans are closely split on their faith in government information on the outbreak, with 46% saying they’re at least somewhat confident that government statements on coronavirus are reliable and accurate, and 43% not very or not at all confident.

More On Public Opinion About Coronavirus

  • Monmouth University’s latest polling: “The nation’s governors get better marks than the President for handling the COVID-19 outbreak...Still, Donald Trump receives a net positive rating for his actions around the pandemic and his overall job rating has improved slightly since last month. Federal health agencies garner better marks than either the president or Congress for dealing with the crisis, but reviews are more mixed for how the media and the American public as a whole have handled it.”
  • Anthony Salvanto, Jennifer De Pinto, Kabir Khanna and Fred Backus, on the latest CBS News poll: “Most Americans (57%) say the nation’s efforts to combat the coronavirus are going badly right now, most call it a crisis and see a months-long process before it is contained. But the public is pinning its hopes heavily on the nation’s scientists, with eight in 10 optimistic about their ability to eventually find a cure or vaccine, and most are also optimistic that Americans themselves can take steps to slow the spread.”
  • Lydia Saad, on Gallup’s polling: “In the span of a week, Americans have gone from tepid adoption of social distancing to majorities engaging in nearly every major practice advocated by government and health officials as ways to contain community spread of the novel coronavirus. But there is a long way to go to approach full compliance.”
  • Ipsos, on international response to coronavirus: “The public is becoming more engaged and concerned in countries such as China and Italy but still remains somewhat distant for those in North America even though the polling was conducted as social distancing measures and travel bans became active.”
  • Margaret Talev, on new Axios/Ipsos polling: ″‘We’ve never seen this widespread, systemic, forced behavioral change — never in American history — this quickly,’ said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs. ‘It’s unprecedented.’”
  • Democratic pollster Navigator Research, on new tracking data: “Americans increasingly recognize the severity of the crisis, with a dramatic change in the way they perceive the state of the national economy; The public is anxious about the crisis, viewing personal and family health as a top concern – speaking in a way that meets people where they are is critical at this time; A majority approve of Trump’s handling of the crisis, but there are warning signs for the president as it progresses.”
  • Political scientist David A. Hopkins, on presidential approval polling: ″[R]ealistically, it’s far too soon to glean much about either the American public’s ultimate response to Trump’s management of the pandemic or its implications for the upcoming election. Here are four good reasons to exercise some patience before jumping to conclusions.”
  • FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley, on lessons from previous elections during crises: “There’s still a lot we don’t know about the current health crisis we find ourselves in — how long will the urgency of the coronavirus threat last, for example, or how things will look come November — but if we’re looking at elections comparable to our current moment, the most relevant may be the 1918 midterm.”
  • GOP pollster Public Opinion Strategies, on how the outbreak has affected its polling: “People want to talk! Our incidence and cooperation rates were higher last week. We also extended our interviewing hours earlier in the day to cellphone respondents and received a strong response.”

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:

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted March 20-22 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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