Most Americans believe stopping the virus should be the U.S. government's top priority, even as social distancing measures ravage the economy.
Most Americans say saving lives by preventing the spread of COVID-19 should be the top priority for the U.S. government as the global coronavirus pandemic strains the nation's health care system and social distancing measures ravage the economy, according to a new poll.
The Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos poll poll released Friday found the nation is becoming more accepting of drastic interventions to stop the virus' spread, compared with a poll taken March 10 and 11. The increased support for restrictions comes as Americans believe coronavirus effects will be felt for the foreseeable future, the new survey found.
"We’re just going to have to figure something out for the economy,” said New York resident Sue Clinton who was among the roughly 1,000 respondents. Clinton said she's concerned for the economy, but is more worried with the safety of several family members who have underlying health conditions, which make them especially vulnerable to the virus.
The poll, conducted March 27-30 on behalf of Public Agenda and USA TODAY, surveyed U.S. adults as a part of the Hidden Common Ground initiative, which aims to examine issues that divide America along with potential solutions. The online poll has a credibility interval, akin to a margin of error, of plus or minus 3.5percentage points.
Five key takeaways from the survey:The nation is becoming more accepting of drastic interventions to stop the spread of coronavirus
About nine out of 10 people now support canceling large-scale events, up from about four in 10 earlier this month. Nearly half of respondents now support grounding all domestic flights, when 22% had supported that measure.
“It’s going to get worse, but nobody knows how much worse it’s going to be,” said Bernard Grossman, who lives in New York City.Most Americans expect the coronavirus crisis to last for months
Most survey respondents thought the crisis will continue for months, with 66% saying it will last "for a few months" or "at least six months." Almost as many (55%)said they were prepared to put their normal lives on hold for those lengths of time.
While optimistic that experimental treatments will prove effective in the fight against the virus, Grossman, who works in academia, believes they could ease in May – but may last longer if more states don't implement more severe restrictions.
Those restrictions are necessary but heartbreaking for Clinton, who is 71 and lives in Rochester, New York. Her grandchildren live across the street and still visit her, but they maintain a 6-foot distance. She said she misses hugging them.Americans choose saving lives over the health of the US economy
Clinton is among the majority (72%)of respondents who believe the government's priority should be saving lives by stopping the spread of the virus, as opposed to sparing the economy.
Only about 1 in 5 said the government's main priority should be saving the economy.
At the same time, the majority also believe the global economy and stock market are at a greater risk than their community or themselves personally.
To balance those concerns, more than 80% of those surveyed said they supported rebooting the economy slowly and carefully to avoid endangering lives.
Personal health concerns aren't particularly pressing to Than Silverlight – 69, of Lancaster, California – although he is worried about a family member who lives in a bigger city.
The gravity of the situation isn't lost on him: “A lot more people are going to die.”We disagree on the federal government's response
Republicans were more likely to believe the federal government was doing everything it could to fight the crisis, with 74% of Republicans supporting the Trump administration compared with 33% of Democrats.
That's true for Silverlight, a Democrat who said he disapproves of President Donald Trump's handling of the crisis. But Silverlight has been impressed by state and local leaders including California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who was one of the first governors to implement stay-at-home measures in the country.
Like Silverlight, more people believe state and local governments were are doing everything they could to address the crisis as compared to the federal government.Americans are pitching in and planning to do more
As the crisis rages on, the survey found Americans are rallying around their communities and plan to do even more.
More than two-thirds say they have already supported local businesses. More than a quarter say they have have donated money, supplies or time to help people in community. And 1 in 5 say they may have exposed themselves to the virus to help others.
In all three cases, the numbers were even higher when people were asked about their plans for the next two weeks or so.
Lauren Langholz has seen her calligraphy business in Texas take a major hit as weddings are postponed, but she appreciates local efforts to “lift small businesses up.”
For now, though, Langholz faces the reality of a reduced income by making frugal decisions and focusing on purchasing only the essentials.
At the same time, she hopes to protect her friends and family by limiting her public interactions. It leads to a “looming fear," she said: "Am I doing enough?”
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