Apr 21, 2020 - Health

Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Week 6: Too risky to go back to "normal"

Data: Ipsos/Axios survey, margin of error of ±3.3 percentage points; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Most Americans feel it would be risky to return to "normal" life just yet and would wait indefinitely or at least for a few more months for the threat of coronavirus infection to subside, per the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: President Trump has championed the idea that some states should reopen by May 1. But the latest findings from our national poll suggest most Americans aren't ready and worry it would hurt their health and well-being.

The results also suggest that the recent protests in Michigan and elsewhere against stay-at-home orders — which have drawn national press coverage — don't reflect how the majority of Americans think about the response to the virus.

  • Democrats feel the risks more acutely, but a clear GOP majority also sees large or moderate risk.
  • Declining trust in the federal government accompanies these sentiments.
  • Party ID matters more than which states people call home.
  • Keep in mind, more than 41,000 Americans have died from the virus, and this week's survey found that 1 in 5 say they know someone who has tested positive.

What they're saying: "Republicans are less proximate to it; they're less likely to live in the big urban centers," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs. "But it has less to do with their proximity to it and much more to do with where they get their information from, and that they take their cues from their political leaders."

  • "This is an example of tribalism and two very different narratives about the same facts."
  • "This will be perhaps a leading indicator of where we'll be in two or three weeks when the discussions really heat up about opening things up."

The big picture: The sixth installment of our weekly survey found no significant changes from recent weeks in terms of respondents' physical and mental health, work status and conditions, or ability to pay the bills. But specific habits are evolving as the threat drags on.

  • The use of masks continues to climb: 64% of people are now wearing one outside the home either sometimes or all of the time, up from 56% a week ago.
  • Around one-third have turned to telemedicine: 22% said they'd spoken with a health care provider by phone, and 13% said they'd done so by video chat.
  • Drinking alcohol is up; exercising is down.
  • Home cooking is way up.
  • Parents are letting their children watch more TV and videos.
  • Social distancing is ubiquitous, with 92% saying they do it, even as those who said they're engaging in 14-day self-quarantining subsided to 43%, the lowest in four weeks.

Between the lines: Geography matters when it comes to the intensity of perceived risk.

  • No matter where people live, around 7 in 10 respondents see either a large or moderate risk in returning to normal — while about one-fourth say it would pose a small risk or no risk.
  • But among those from California, New York and New Jersey combined, 44.8% consider it a large risk versus 28.9% who see a moderate risk.
  • Meanwhile, only 30.3% of Florida and Texas respondents combined see a large risk in returning to normal, compared with 40% who see it as a moderate risk.
  • A combined sample of respondents from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana fall somewhere in between, at 39% and 35%, respectively, for very versus moderately risky.

Be smart: Trust in the federal government to handle the pandemic has declined steadily since we first asked the question in late March — from 53% to 43% — but that's driven heavily by party ID.

  • Democrats' trust in the federal government to look out for their families' best interests has fallen from 42% to 30%.
  • Republicans' support began at 74%, dipped to a low of 65% last week, and rose back to 70% this week.
  • Trust in state government has also waned, but by only a few percentage points and without the same partisan distinctions.

One big question: Will stimulus payments have a significant impact on how Americans weather the storm?

  • Half of this week's respondents said they're receiving stimulus money from the government.
  • Survey responses in the coming weeks should show whether and how it makes a difference in their lives.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted April 17–20 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,021 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.
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