May 19, 2020 - Health

Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index Week 10: America re-engages

Data: Axios/Ipsos surveys. Note: The first survey was April 10-13, and 1,098 adults were interviewed. The second was May 15-18, and 1,009 adults were interviewed. Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Axios/Ipsos surveys. Note: The first survey was April 10-13, and 1,098 adults were interviewed. The second was May 15-18, and 1,009 adults were interviewed. Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans are increasingly stepping out for social calls amid the pandemic — making playdates for their kids, restarting visits with elderly relatives, even grabbing a haircut, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: They're enabled and emboldened by states that have begun reopening, even as infections in the U.S. near 1.5 million and office closures and work-from-home arrangements remain in effect.

  • This testing the waters breaks down heavily along partisan and regional lines.
  • People still perceive social interactions as risky, but are being drawn to some anyhow as they crave creature comforts and the company of loved ones.

What they're saying: "There's still this high level of perceived risk about the COVID-19 world, but people are poking their heads out now," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs. "The overall trend is, everything's jumping up."

  • "The restrictions are being lifted in some places; in other places there's this expectation they will be lifted."
  • "They're venturing out in a safe way. They're using some of the basic social distancing, masks and six feet apart."

By the numbers: Southerners lead the push for haircuts, meals out and playdates, and that's in keeping with the pace of where restrictions are being lifted. Visits with the elderly are less about where you live than whether you're old enough to have elderly parents.

  • Southerners are three times as likely to have gone out for a haircut in the last week (9%) as Northeasterners (3%).
  • Southerners (16%) are twice as likely as Northeasterners (8%) to have gone out to eat in the past week.
  • Parents in the South (41%) and Midwest (38%) are more than twice as likely as parents in the Northeast (17%) to have let their children play with other children in the past week.
  • Overall, 15% of respondents say they visited elderly relatives in the last week, the highest share in nine weeks; that share shoots up to 23% among those ages 50-64.

Between the lines: Americans see it as safer to re-engage with people they know than to re-engage with society overall. At the same time, there's a widening gulf as Republicans see less risk with both sets of interactions than Democrats.

  • People who say attending in-person gatherings with friends and family outside their households is a large or moderate risk dropped from 81% in mid-April to 64%. (The split between Republicans and Democrats on this question grew from 14 points to 27 points over that time.)
  • Those who say returning to their pre-coronavirus life would pose a large or moderate risk dropped far less over the same period, from 72% to 68%. (That split between Republicans and Democrats grew from 21 points to 36 points.)

The big picture: Week 10 of our national survey finds about one in three continue to self-quarantine; six in 10 people use video conferencing to connect with family and friends; eight in 10 wear a mask outside the home; and 84% of Americans say attending a sporting event would be a large or moderate risk.

  • But there are subtle signs that people are growing weary of social distancing: 87% now say they practice it, down from 92%. The survey also found potential tension points with people who say they're following social distancing rules but perceive that others aren't.
  • Meanwhile, the survey found some good news for efforts to implement contact tracing programs to contain the spread of the virus. Most say they're open to sharing information about who they've been in contact with, if the tracing is done by local health officials and doesn't involve sharing data from their cell phones.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted May 15-18 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,009 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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