A growing number of Americans want stronger action against coronavirus—and conspiracies are abound

March 11, 2020, 6:30 PM GMT+0

America's worry about the coronavirus hasn’t increased much in the last week (about half at least worry somewhat about personally contracting COVID-19), but there is rising support in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll for taking stronger measures to limit its spread.

Meanwhile, large shares of people hold scientifically unproven opinions about how the coronavirus began, and how significant the problem is.

President Donald Trump suggested once at a rally that the virus could be a “hoax,” and that the threat from COVID-19 has been exaggerated. He clarified his remark the next day saying that he meant that the threat from the virus was being exaggerated by the Democrats. It’s no surprise, perhaps, that most (65%) Republicans agree that the threat has been exaggerated for political reasons. But a majority of Republicans also believe that calling it a “hoax” is definitely not true (85%).

{{ raw_content }}

There is, however, a significant belief that the virus was ”created”—in other words, that it was man-made. More than four in 10 Democrats (42%) and a majority of Republicans (57%) say this is definitely or probably true.

Democrats take a negative view of much that happens in the Trump administration (86% of them disapprove of how Trump is handling his presidency), and they tend to support a different theory—that the government is concealing the scale of deaths from the virus. Democrats (60%) are three times more likely than Republicans (21%) to believe this.

Despite questions about the origin and the nature of the epidemic, more and more Americans are willing to take actions to limit the spread of the virus. One measure—requiring a quarantine for those entering the country from areas which have been severely impacted by coronavirus—gets majority support (72%). But support for several other (perhaps less extreme) measures have jumped between eight to twelve points in the last week.

Only one in four (26%) would stop fans from attending the NCAA basketball tournament.

Just a third last week and this week would cancel long-distance travel. Support for this comes across the board, from both Republicans and Democrats. The American public generally agrees with the medical authorities who say requiring that people wear face masks isn’t desirable from a medical point of view.

Most people haven’t made any specific change to their normal routine to prevent COVID-19, but one in four (26%) say they have, up from 19 percent last week. The major changes that respondents volunteer is more handwashing, disinfecting surfaces, trying to not touch their face, and staying home or avoiding crowded places. In other words, doing exactly what experts have advised.

There is concern that the UNited States is less prepared than it should be to handle the virus. As many say it is not well-prepared (47%) and believe it is (43%). Most don’t think there are enough testing kits (just 13% think there are enough). The blame for this is given mostly to the President and the federal government. However, 29 percent believe no one could have prepared for these events.

Americans are divided on the president’s handling of the coronavirus; this week 41 percent approve, 43 percent disapprove (last week, disapproval outweighed approval 47% to 37%). Like last week, four in ten don’t believe the President is taking the situation seriously enough. There is also division on the appointment of Vice President Mike Pence to head the Administration’s response to the virus.

But personal concern about becoming ill from the coronavirus hasn’t changed much. Half (49%) express some worry about becoming ill; two-thirds (66%) are concerned about the possibility of an epidemic in the United States.

Democrats express more worry and concern than Republicans do. However, while just over a third (37%) of Republicans are personally worried about contracting COVID-19, half (48%) are concerned about the possibility of an epidemic in the United States.

Read the full toplines and tables results from this week’s Economist/YouGov poll here

Image: Getty