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Americans’ Risk Perceptions and Emotional Responses to COVID-19 – April 2020


Executive Summary

Drawing on a scientific national survey (N = 3,933; including 3,188 registered voters), this report describes how the American public is responding to the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Most Americans Say the U.S. Coronavirus Epidemic Has Disrupted their Daily Life

  • About seven in ten Americans say their daily life has been disrupted by the spread of the coronavirus either “a lot” (38%) or “some” (34%).
  • About four in ten say they or a household member has had trouble sleeping (42%).
  • Nearly one in five Americans say they or a household member has filed for unemployment (18%), lost a job (17%), or been unable to get adequate medical care (17%).
  • Three in ten or more say they or a household member has lost money in retirement accounts or investments (38%), had work hours reduced (34%), lost income from a job or business (32%), or been unable to get groceries (30%).
  • Hispanics/Latinos – as well as liberal/moderate Republicans – are more likely than other Americans to say they or a member of their household has experienced economic consequences, such as job loss, income loss from a job or business, or reduced work hours.

 

Americans Are Most Worried about the Impacts of Coronavirus on the Healthcare System and Economy; A Majority Say Worry about the Coronavirus Has Harmed their Mental Health

  • Eight in ten or more Americans are worried about the healthcare system being overwhelmed by coronavirus patients (85%), the world experiencing a global economic depression (84%), businesses failing in their local community (82%), and unemployment increasing in their state (80%).
  • Hispanics/Latinos are more likely than other Americans to say they are “very worried” about being unable to access medical care and experiencing several economic consequences, such as losing their job, work-related income, or their home. Also, liberal/moderate Republicans are more likely than other Americans to say they are “very” or “somewhat worried” about experiencing several economic consequences.
  • A majority of Americans say worry about the coronavirus has harmed their mental health either “a lot” (11%), “some” (18%), or “a little” (25%). Older Americans (aged 60+) and conservative Republicans are more likely than other Americans to say “not at all” when asked if worry about the coronavirus has harmed their mental health. Liberal/moderate Republicans, on the other hand, are more likely than other Americans to say it has harmed their mental health “a lot.”

 

Americans Are Experiencing Many Emotions in Response to the Coronavirus, Especially Compassion and Hope

  • Majorities of Americans feel compassionate (64% “very” or “moderately”) or hopeful (54%) when they think about the coronavirus.
  • Four in ten or more feel anxious (46%), afraid (43%), helpless (42%), or overwhelmed (40%). Fewer Americans feel panicked (28%) or confused (28%).
  • Younger Americans (18-29) are less likely than other Americans to say they feel compassionate and are more likely to say they feel bored.

 

Most Americans Perceive the Coronavirus as a Threat to Vulnerable Populations and People in the U.S.; Fewer Think it will Harm Them Personally

  • About three in four Americans think the coronavirus will do “a great deal” of harm to the health of adults aged 65 or older (77%) and to people with chronic health conditions (77%).
  • About six in ten think the coronavirus will harm the health of people in the U.S. “a great deal” (62%). Fewer Americans think it will do “a great deal” of harm to the health of people in their local community (32%), children (23%), their family (26%), and themselves personally (25%).
  • Democrats, particularly liberal Democrats, are more likely than other Americans to say that the coronavirus will do “a great deal” of harm to the health of vulnerable populations (adults aged 65+ or people with chronic health conditions), people in the U.S., and people in their community.
  • As of April 7, most Americans estimated the coronavirus epidemic in the U.S. would end in either 2-3 months (35%) or 4-6 months (29%). Republicans, particularly conservative Republicans, were the most likely to think the coronavirus epidemic in the U.S. would end soon.