At Brookings, William A. Galston reports that “Polling shows Americans see COVID-19 as a crisis, don’t think US is overreacting.” As Galston writes:
As soon as the novel coronavirus began spreading across the country, some pundits—and on occasion President Trump—alleged that health experts and the media were exaggerating the problem and that policy makers were responding with measures that the American people would not tolerate. The high-quality survey research published in recent days makes it clear that the people don’t agree. They believe that we face a national emergency and that all the steps taken during the past few weeks are reasonable and proportionate. As of now, moreover, there is no evidence—none—that these measures have pushed the people past their breaking-point into non-compliance or revolt.
Eighty-one percent of the people say that the Covid-19 pandemic has created a “national emergency” (Economist/YouGov). Sixty-six percent believe that it is a “major threat” to the health of the U.S. population, 88% say that it is a major threat to the economy (Pew), and 57% say that the country is “at war” with the coronavirus (Economist/YouGov). Only 3 in 10 say that the threat has been exaggerated for political reasons (Economist/YouGov).
About three-quarters of Americans are concerned about an outbreak in their communities (Economist/YouGov). Nearly 7 in 10 express the fear that they or a member of their family will catch the disease, and about two-thirds say that the disease will push the U.S. into a recession or that we are already in one. One-third of all households have already experienced layoffs or pay cuts, and the impact has been even higher for lower-income and less-educated individuals (Pew).
Galston notes further that “The surveys find a remarkably high degree of support for the measures public officials have mandated in response to Covid-19, even the measures that have massively disrupted daily life.” He adds that, “40% or more of Americans believe that we are underreacting to the Covid-19 threat, compared to 25-30% who believe that we are overreacting and about one-quarter who think that our reaction has been about right (Pew, Economist/YouGov). The country is split down the middle on the effectiveness of our efforts to contain the coronavirus, with 47% saying that the battle is going well and 46% that it is going badly. Only 4 in 10 Americans think that we were adequately prepared for this crisis, while 6 in 10 say that we were not (Economist/YouGov).”
For those who are wondering how the crisis affects public views about the role of federal, state and local governments in addressing the crisis, Galston notes, “On the one hand, a plurality of Americans (43%) say that the federal government should be in charge, compared to 27% for the states and just 9% for localities (Economist/YouGov). On the other hand, they express more confidence in state and local officials than they do in the federal government.”
Galston cites the likelihood that “sustained public support for tough public health measures will increase” if the CARES Act keeps most people employed and busines bankruptsies are limited. He concludes that “the American people are backing an increasingly robust response to the COVID-19 epidemic, even when it limits their customary liberties, they expect this restrictive regime to continue for at least another few months, and they seem prepared to tolerate it—for how long, nobody really knows.”