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How Are Americans Adjusting To Life In A Pandemic?

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

For weeks now, the coronavirus pandemic has dominated the news cycle, which means it has dominated polling as well. This week alone, we’ve gotten several more surveys asking Americans how they feel amid the crisis and how it has affected their lives. Here’s the latest.

First, in case you missed it, FiveThirtyEight now has an updating tracker for common polling questions on the coronavirus. On the question of how concerned Americans are that they or someone they know will contract COVID-19, a majority remains either very (33.7 percent) or somewhat (37.8 percent) concerned. The share of Americans who say they are not very (19.2 percent) or not at all (8.1percent) concerned remains low. However, we’ve seen a turn this week in which the number who are very concerned appears to have decreased while more people are reporting they are not very concerned.

A majority of Americans (57.0 percent) are also very worried about the coronavirus’s effect on the economy, and another 29.9 percent are somewhat worried.

President Trump’s handling of the crisis continues to be polarizing. As of Thursday evening, 47.5 percent approved of his response, while 48.7 percent disapproved. And according to a The Economist/YouGov poll conducted from April 12 to 14, 52 percent of Americans believe Trump waited too long to take action on the pandemic, while 33 percent think he acted at the appropriate time.

In terms of being personally affected by the virus, 2 percent of adults also told The Economist/YouGov that they had tested positive for the coronavirus, and another 13 percent had a close friend or family member who has tested positive. In The Economist/YouGov’s March 22-24 poll, those numbers were 1 percent and 5 percent, respectively. In the most recent survey, 9 percent said that a close friend or family member had died due to complications from the disease.

Many jurisdictions have reported COVID-19 death rates that are dramatically higher among the black and/or Hispanic population than among the white population, and this shows up in the polling as well. Sixteen percent of Hispanic respondents, and 14 percent of black respondents, said a close friend or family member had died of COVID-19 in that Economist/YouGov poll. Only 7 percent of white respondents said so.

And far more people have been affected indirectly. According to Monmouth University’s latest poll (conducted April 3-7), 62 percent of adults said the pandemic had a major impact on their life, and another 27 percent said it had a minor one. In addition, 27 percent said the pandemic forced them to start working from home for the first time, 41 percent said they had lost income due to a decrease in work hours or less business, 63 percent said they were spending more time watching TV and movies and 77 percent said they were going out to stores and businesses less often than normal. All of these numbers have ticked up at least 6 percentage points from Monmouth’s March 18-22 poll, too.

Monmouth also reported that a plurality of Americans (48 percent) aren’t having trouble finding supplies that they need. However, toilet paper (23 percent of respondents said they were having trouble finding it) and hand sanitizer (16 percent) remain the most difficult items to obtain.

According to Elucd’s national coronavirus tracker, 29 percent of Americans are self-isolating nearly all of the time, and an additional 56 percent are doing so most of the time (i.e., they only leave home when they need to). Those numbers have been pretty consistent since the beginning of April. And one new precaution that Americans seem to be taking is wearing masks. In the latest The Economist/YouGov poll, 53 percent of Americans said they have worn a face mask in public — up from 34 percent last week.

When asked when they think it will be safe to end social distancing measures and reopen businesses, 6 percent of respondents told The Economist/YouGov right now, and 8 percent said in about two weeks — meaning about 14 percent agree with Trump’s timeline to reopen much of the country around May 1. However, a majority of Americans think it will take much longer. Twenty-eight percent said they think it will be safe in about a month, while a plurality (36 percent) think it will take several months. Eight percent predicted it will take a year or longer, while 15 percent just weren’t sure. And according to The Harris Poll’s COVID-19 Tracker from April 11 to 13, 84 percent of Americans are worried that lifting restrictions too early would result in another surge of COVID-19 cases.

Harris also found that the event that would make the most Americans (62 percent) comfortable resuming certain activities, such as flying or attending sporting events, would be the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. A sobering 13 percent, however, said that there was no action that could be taken that would make them comfortable returning to those activities. And overall, Americans did not express a lot of confidence that things would return to “normal” after the pandemic has passed. Only 19 percent said they were very confident that would happen, 35 percent said they were somewhat confident, 22 percent said they were not very confident and 23 percent said they were not at all confident or that things would “never be the same.”

Overall, the pandemic is taking a toll on Americans’ happiness. Gallup runs a regular survey asking adults to rate their satisfaction with their current lives on a scale of 0 to 10; in the latest poll, 58 percent of adults gave themselves a 7 or higher. That’s down from 68 percent in Gallup’s survey last fall. Only 61 percent reported feeling enjoyment on a daily basis (down from 81 percent), and 59 percent reported feeling worry (up from 38 percent). Relatedly, a majority of respondents told Monmouth that their stress level has gone up either a little (28 percent) or a lot (27 percent) during the pandemic, while 40 percent said it’s stayed about the same.

However, to end on a slightly positive note, although 25 percent of people told Monmouth they felt lonelier than usual during the lockdown, a strong majority (68 percent) said their level of loneliness hasn’t changed. And, going back to Gallup’s satisfaction survey, 68 percent of adults anticipated that their life satisfaction in five years would rate an 8 or higher on a 10-point scale. That’s actually a small increase from last year’s survey.

Other polling bites

  • Now that former Vice President Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, HuffPost/YouGov asked Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters how they felt about that. Thirty-five percent said they were enthusiastic, 33 percent said they were satisfied but not enthusiastic, 15 percent said they were dissatisfied but not upset and 13 percent said they were upset. However, liberals and young voters were less thrilled about Biden; for example, only 13 percent of Democrats under age 45 felt enthusiastic, 36 percent felt satisfied, 21 percent felt dissatisfied and 26 percent felt upset.
  • Biden has committed to picking a female running mate, but otherwise it’s an open question whom he will choose. According to Morning Consult, 34 percent of registered voters think it’s very or somewhat important that she have legislative experience, and 31 percent think it’s important she have executive experience. However, if Biden wants to reassure those aforementioned young voters, he might want to pick someone more liberal than he is; 27 percent of Democrats under age 45 thought that was a very or somewhat important trait in a running mate. Among several possible vice-presidential contenders Morning Consult asked about, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was viewed the most favorably by those younger Democrats.
  • A new Public Policy Polling survey finds that Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier leads Republican Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, 44 percent to 42 percent in Kansas’s U.S. Senate race — even as a generic Republican candidate defeats a generic Democrat, 50 percent to 40 percent. Republicans and Democrats alike feel that this normally deep-red state could be competitive if Kobach is the Republican nominee. However, because the poll was sponsored by pro-Democratic group 314 Action, it may be too good to be true for Democrats.
  • The Public Religion Research Institute’s 2019 American Values Atlas took a close look this week at the demographics of LGBT Americans and support for gay rights. Self-identified LGBT Americans are significantly more likely than the general population to be young (47 percent are between ages 18 and 29, compared with 21 percent of all Americans) and religiously unaffiliated (47 percent vs. 24 percent). Meanwhile, at least 59 percent of respondents in all 50 states support nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.
  • According to YouGov, 53 percent of adults do not have a will. Fourteen percent say they do but haven’t updated it in at least five years, while only 5 percent say they updated or prepared a will in the last month.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 44.2 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 51.7 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -7.5 points). At this time last week, 44.6 percent approved and 50.3 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -5.7 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 42.7 percent and a disapproval rating of 53.1 percent, for a net approval rating of -10.4 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 7.8 percentage points (48.6 percent to 40.8 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 7.8 points (48.9 percent to 41.1 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 7.3 points (48.7 percent to 41.4 percent).

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.

Nathaniel Rakich is FiveThirtyEight’s elections analyst.

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