May 5, 2020 - Economy

Americans' worries about leaving their homes are fading

Data: Ipsos/Axios survey, margin of error of ±3.2 percentage points; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios
Data: Ipsos/Axios survey, margin of error of ±3.2 percentage points; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Americans say they are getting less worried about leaving their homes and taking part in large group activities, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: As states start to relax shelter-in-place orders and allow more businesses to open, there is increasing public appetite for the kind of activities that could help spur the economy toward recovery, the Axios-Ipsos results show.

  • Yes, but: Pollsters caution the responses may be more a reflection of cabin fever than confidence.

By the numbers: In week eight of the poll, which took place May 1–4, just 36% said they viewed attending a gathering of friends and family outside the house as a large risk, down significantly from 53% just three weeks ago.

  • The number of people who said they saw a large risk in attending a concert or event or traveling on an airplane or other form of mass transit has also declined notably in recent weeks.

Details: Only 33% of respondents said they perceived returning to their "normal pre-coronavirus" routine as a large risk to their health or well-being.

  • That was the lowest reading to date and well below the 38% of respondents who saw it as a large risk just two weeks ago.

The intrigue: There was a clear split along political lines, as Democrats were twice as likely as Republicans to see gatherings as risky.

  • Black and Hispanic respondents also were much more likely to perceive a high risk of engaging in these activities.
  • Infection rates have been shown to be five times higher in majority-minority ZIP codes than in ZIP codes with less than 10% nonwhite population, and Northeastern states with Democratic governors have seen far more infections and deaths than states with Republican governors.

Between the lines: The decline in worry has moved largely in concert with an increase in respondents' ability to find items like toilet paper, soap and hand sanitizer, which were in short supply early in the pandemic.

Driving the news: At least 12 countries loosened quarantine restrictions on Monday — as did several U.S. states, including California, which will allow some retailers to reopen as it scales up its contact tracing program.

What it means: "There is a clear lessening of anxiety or perception of risk among many Americans in the last few weeks compared to early April," Chris Jackson, public polling lead at Ipsos, tells Axios.

  • "With fewer people reporting shortages or the inability to find essential items, there is a sense that things are on the upswing."
  • "It remains to be seen if this is the start of the recovery or a momentary blip before more challenges."

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted May 1–4 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,012 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.
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