Mar 23, 2020 - Health

College students are still going out despite coronavirus warnings

Data: College Reaction; Note: Margin of error of ±3.1 percentage points; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: College Reaction; Note: Margin of error of ±3.1 percentage points; Chart: Axios Visuals

More than half of college students say either they or their friends have gone to bars, parties, restaurants or other social gatherings in the last week, according to a new College Reaction poll.

Why it matters: The findings underscore how messages from political leaders and health authorities about the critical importance of social distancing to slow the spread of the virus haven't taken hold with younger Americans.

  • The poll doesn’t define “friends,” so when college students say their friends have gone out, it’s ambiguous how many students are talking about close friends vs. mere acquaintances. 
  • But 27% percent of respondents indicated they’d been out socially, either alone or with their friends — an indicator of how prevalent these attitudes are. 

Between the lines: The numbers stand in contrast to the 90% of students who say they're concerned about transmitting the virus to the elderly and immunocompromised population.

  • CDC research shows that young Americans comprise a significant share of the population infected by coronavirus, even if they don't have acute symptoms. But being a carrier means they can transmit the virus to those more vulnerable.

Methodology: The poll was conducted March. 19-21 from a representative sample of 966 college students with a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

College Reaction’s polling is conducted using a demographically representative panel of college students from around the country. The surveys are administered digitally and use college e-mail addresses as an authentication tool to ensure current enrollment in a four-year institution. The target for the general population sample was students currently enrolled in accredited 4-year institutions in the United States.

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