Coronavirus poll reveals Americans not panicking, young adults just as worried as older people

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Signs send reminders to walkers and runners at downtown Austin trail (KXAN/Chris Nelson)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Young people are just as worried about being exposed to coronavirus as older people, most Americans are not panicking and many have improved their social distancing, according to data experts.

Analytics firm Gallup, which studies people’s behavior during times of crisis, asked 1,020 adult Americans various questions about their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a webcast Wednesday, experts at Gallup revealed the results of the poll and analyzed how they reflect the mood of the country.

Although younger people have been accused of not taking advice to stay inside seriously, Gallup’s director of US social research Lydia Saad said the data points to them being just as worried as older people.

“The percentage of adults by age very worried about being exposed is as high among 18 to 29 year olds (61%) as it is among middle aged adults (62%),” Saad said.

Instead, a discrepancy between those who are worried about themselves or a family member being exposed to the virus is found in their choice of political party.

According to the data, 74% of Democrats are either very or somewhat worried about exposure to COVID-19, compared to just 48% of Republicans.

Similarly, 80% of Democrats said they were avoiding public places such as stores and restaurants, while 61% of Republicans said they were doing the same.

An apparent lack of concern from Republicans compared to Democrats can be attributed to the confidence of President Donald Trump that the US will overcome the virus, according to Saad.

In general, however, Americans’ attitude towards social distancing became far more serious over the period of a week, the data suggests.

Among those polled between March 13 and 15, 59% of people said they were avoiding large crowds, 30% said they were avoiding public places, while 23% reported avoiding small gatherings of people.

Interviews carried out about a week later, between March 20 and 22, suggests that attitudes had changed significantly. By this time, 92% of people were avoiding crowds, 72% were not going to public places and 68% were avoiding small gatherings.

This data indicates that “Americans are being responsible and proactive in following the recommendations to self-isolate,” according to Saad.

Saad also pointed to a “lack of extreme worry” among Americans, which suggests that most are not panicking. Just 24% of people said they were very worried that they or someone in their family will be exposed to coronavirus.

However, it is worth noting that this number is more than double the amount of people who answered the same way during the SARS outbreak in 2003 – at the time, just 11% said they were very worried.

The increased level of concern compared to SARS is reflected in the number of people paying close attention to the pandemic.

Gallup said it is the second most followed news story since they have been collecting data – 93% of people said they are following the news very or somewhat closely, second only to the 9/11 terror attacks (97%).

The data also showed that more people approve of the way that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are handling the situation than their overall job approval ratings.

In total, 61% of people said they approved of Pence’s response to the pandemic, and 60% of people said they approved of Trump’s handling of it. These figures suggest that they have received a little more support from independents and Democrats compared to their general job performance, Saad said.

The opposite can be said of the news media. More people said they disapprove of the way the media is handling the pandemic than those who approve, 55% to 44%.

Media approval is particularly low among Republicans, which aligns with the president’s anti-media rhetoric. In contrast, about a quarter of Democrats said they disapprove of the media’s role in the crisis.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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