US: Public Want More Action on Coronavirus

March 16, 2020
Coronavirus | Healthcare

When Redfield & Wilton Strategies conducted a poll of 3,000 respondents in the United States on Thursday, President Donald Trump had just announced the night before a 30-day travel ban from almost all European countries. Since his initial closure of travel from China in late January, this action was the first significant step the President had taken in addressing the coronavirus crisis. The next day, respondents to our poll overwhelmingly appeared to agree with this step with only 16% of respondents saying it was an overreaction.

What do you think of President Donald Trump’s decision last night to suspend travel from Europe?

In fact, when we asked specifically about the timing of the decision, only 7% of respondents said it should not have been implemented at all, whereas 37% said it was implemented too late.

What do you think of the timing of President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend travel from Europe?

If anything, our poll seemed to suggest that, as of Thursday, members of the public wanted even more stringent action. When we asked whether they would support social distancing measure, two-thirds of respondents said yes, whereas only 19% (a not insignificant amount) said no.

Would you support or not support social distancing measure imposed by the Government designed to significantly reduce your interactions with other people? (Such measures may include the closing of public spaces and the cancellation of large public events)

Social distancing measures have since been implemented in a number of states and cities, with restaurants, bars, gyms, and other public spaces being forced to close or to serve exclusively take-out in places such states as Washington and New Hampshire and cities as San Francisco and New York. On Monday afternoon, the President further recommended that people avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.

For employers, the coronavirus presented a challenging dilemma. 58% of respondents indicated that it is possible in their profession to work from home. Of those respondents, half said on Thursday that their employers should ask them to work from home.

Do you think your employer should ask you to work from home today?

Members of the public also seemed to know the risks of the new virus. When asked whether coronavirus was more or less dangerous than the seasonal flu, a majority of respondents indicated that it was more dangerous –– in contrast to the results we saw in our UK poll on the same day and in direct opposition to a Tweet by the President only three days prior.

Compared to the seasonal flu, how dangerous do you think coronavirus is?

Altogether, respondents seemed to want more measures in place. Asked what they had thought about the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak so far, a plurality thought the Government had fallen far short.

Which of the following statements is closest to your view of the US Government’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak so far?

Most notably, nearly a quarter of those who had voted for Trump in 2016 had found his response so far to be inadequate. At the same time, however, past Trump voters were more likely to find the entire coronavirus outbreak to be overblown. 28% of past Trump voters said so, as opposed to 7% of past Clinton voters.

On a scale of 1 to 5, how concerned are you about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and its impact on the public’s health?

On the surface, this breakdown may present an interesting dilemma to President Trump. Yet, it will likely be that as the President’s tone on the severity of this crisis becomes more serious, those past voters will come to his side. If he remains aloof on the subject, he will not win back those past voters who have found his response so far to have been inadequate.

After our poll was conducted on Thursday, it seemed that the President had come to understand the seriousness of the situation. The next day, he announced in a press conference that mass testing was to be conducted over the following weeks. Over the weekend, he extended travel restrictions to include the United Kingdom, and today, he has recommended further social distancing measures to State governments.

More measures are likely to come in the next few days and weeks, and it seems that the American public largely wants them as soon as possible.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.