Data: Ipsos/Axios survey, margin of error of ±3.4 percentage points; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

In a best-case scenario, just half of Americans would participate in a voluntary coronavirus "contact tracing" program tracked with cell phones, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: A strong contact tracing program — identifying people who have the virus and isolating those who have come into contact with them — is the key to letting other people get back to their lives, according to public health experts.

  • The findings underscore deep resistance to turning over sensitive health information, and mistrust about how it could be used.
  • The only way to get even half of Americans to participate would be for public health officials to run the program, not the White House or tech or phone companies.

What they're saying: "The whole concept of American democracy is about local control and civil liberties, individual liberties," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.

  • "At the end of the day, I think there will be an American solution to contact tracing," but if the survey results are any guide, "it's not going to be a centralized authority saying, 'And now we're going to have contact tracing.'"
  • These findings come as tech companies develop software to try to halt the spread, and public health officials train thousands to conduct the tracing.

The big picture: Even as the death toll rises and infections breach the White House firewall, Week 9 of our national survey also finds more people itching to return to work as they used to know it — and bending guidelines to see family and friends.

  • 64% say returning to their pre-coronavirus lives would be a large or moderate risk. Just 30% say that's worth the risk right now.
  • But four in 10 say they think returning to their normal place of employment would post only a small risk, or no risk.
  • 63% consider airplane travel or mass transit to be a large risk, down from 73% a month ago.
  • Nine in 10 say they're still practicing social distancing, but just 36% say they're self quarantining, down from a peak of 55% in Week 4.
  • 32% say they've visited family or friends in the past week, the highest share in seven weeks.

These shifts in behavior come even as growing shares of Americans know people in their own communities who have tested positive and the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. has topped 1.3 million, with roughly 80,000 deaths.

  • About a third know someone who has tested positive — and of those, nearly half say they know a person in their own community who has tested positive.
  • "People are getting antsy," Young said. "They know there's this risk, but ... people's mental health and social health are challenged and they're just feeling restless."
  • "You can only keep cooped up for so long."

Between the lines: Most don't see the virus as an immediate existential threat to themselves. This week, we asked whether people had prepared or updated their wills or living wills since the pandemic began. More than nine in 10 said no.

For contact tracing involving cell phone tracking, Democrats surveyed are more open than Republicans to the notion of opt-in reporting.

  • 68% of Democrats say they'd participate if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was in charge, compared with 58% of independents and 32% of Republicans.
  • Those numbers plunged if the federal government more broadly were in charge, but Democrats remained the most likely to participate — 39% compared with 34% of independents and 23% of Republicans.
  • That's despite the fact that Democrats are less trusting than others of the Trump administration to protect their families.
  • Men are slightly more likely than women to trust tech companies with the information.

Be smart: Some reporting initiatives may need to be mandatory or person-to-person to get high enough levels of participation to be worthwhile.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted May 8-11 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 980 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.

Go deeper

Aug 12, 2020 - Health

Poll: America's confidence in public school system jumps amid pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

America's confidence in the public school system rose by 12 points this year to 41% — its highest point since 2004, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.

Why it matters: "Double-digit increases in confidence for any institution are exceedingly rare," Gallup notes. The jump comes as teachers, administrators and parents are still figuring out how to safely get kids back to school in the midst of a global pandemic, as the U.S. reports the most coronavirus infections and fatalities in the world.

Updated Aug 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pelosi says Mnuchin told her White House is "not budging" on stimulus position

Democrats and the Trump administration remain "miles apart" on negotiations over a coronavirus stimulus deal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday.

The latest: Around 3 p.m., Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement saying that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had initiated a phone call and made clear that the White House is "not budging from their position concerning the size and scope of a legislative package."

Updated 14 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand confirmed Thursday there are 13 local cases linked to the four who tested positive for COVID-19, ending 102 days of no community spread. Auckland locked down Wednesday for 72 hours and the rest of NZ is under lesser restrictions.

By the numbers: Over 751,000 people have died of the novel coronavirus globally and another 20.7 million have tested positive, per Johns Hopkins. More than 12.8 million have recovered from the virus.