Fears Over Coronavirus Escalating Quickly in US

(CN) — Most Americans now consider the coronavirus a major threat to the collective health of the U.S. as an even larger majority sees the pandemic as threatening to the economy, the Pew Research Center reported Thursday.

In a survey of 11,537 adults between March 19 and March 24, researchers found that 66% said the coronavirus was a major threat to public health, up from 47% in Pew’s previous survey between March 10 and March 16.

Patients wear personal protective equipment while maintaining social distancing as they wait in line Wednesday for a Covid-19 test at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Additionally, a whopping 88% of respondents said the Covid-19 outbreak is a big threat to the economy, up from 70% in the last survey. A 48% plurality expected a recession as a result of the pandemic, and 17% expected a depression.

Though majorities from every measured demographic viewed the pandemic as a “significant crisis,” subtle differences emerged from the data. For example, concern increased with age. Fifty-seven percent of respondents 18 to 29 years old viewed the pandemic as a crisis, whereas 76% of respondents older than 65 years said the same.

Those with a postgraduate education were the most concerned among education levels at 79%, whereas 61% of those with a high school diploma or less felt the same. Urban and suburban residents were more concerned than rural residents about the outbreak at 74%, 67% and 61%, respectively.

The most significant disparity in concern for public health was between respondents who followed the news closely and those who did not at 79% and 52%, respectively.

While only a plurality of respondents expected an economic recession to arise out of the pandemic, some demographics were more concerned than others. Sixty-one percent of postgraduates expected a recession, followed by college graduates at 57%. Those with some college education felt roughly the same as the average at 47%. However, those with a high school diploma or less were more likely to expect only an economic slowdown at 43%, versus 39% who did expect a recession.

Adding fuel to that expectation, 33% of respondents said someone in their respective households had lost a job or taken a pay cut due to the outbreak. However, those between 18 to 29 years old, Hispanics and those with lower incomes were hit disproportionately by pay cuts and job losses at 46%, 49% and 43%, respectively. Respondents older than 65, white people, postgraduates and those who make more money were the least likely to see such ill economic effects at 19%, 29%, 23% and 22%, respectively.

In line with the public’s rising concerns, majorities of respondents from both major political parties supported mitigation efforts, including international travel restrictions, event cancellations, school closures and other shutdowns to encourage social distancing practices. Travel restriction was viewed as the most necessary step in mitigating the pandemic, with the support of 95% of all respondents. Least popular (70%) was postponing upcoming state primary elections.

As for the people leading those efforts, respondents were most supportive of public health officials, with 79% indicating “good” or “excellent” responses from them. Seventy percent of respondents were favorable to state officials, and 69% were favorable to local officials. A 63% majority also supported the public’s response to the outbreak.

Predictably, respondents were more split on the media’s and President Donald Trump’s responses. A 54% majority of overall respondents viewed the news media’s response positively, while a slim 51% majority regarded Trump’s response negatively. Thirty-two percent said the president’s response was “poor” — the highest unfavorable among those measured.

However, the averages for the news media and the president belied significant partisan disparities. Sixty-eight percent of Democratic respondents supported the media’s response to the pandemic, whereas only 37% of Republican respondents said the same. In contrast, 83% of Republicans supported the president’s response to the outbreak, compared to only 18% of Democrats.

As cities across the country hunker down to slow the spread of the virus, the visible changes to Americans’ daily lives were reflected in the latest pew survey. As confirmed cases continue to rise, public concern has grown significantly and quickly. Respondents indicated that local, state and nonpartisan public officials have by and large risen above political considerations but were more skeptical of the news media and the president.

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