A majority of Americans believe COVID-19 will lead to an economic recession

March 18, 2020, 7:00 PM UTC

Most Americans, including a plurality of Republicans, believe the coronavirus known as COVID-19 will lead to an economic recession. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll indicates that the emergency may be as much an economic one as a medical one.

A majority of Americans (55%) say the coronavirus outbreak will lead to an economic recession, and Republicans are more likely to believe COVID-19 will spark a recession than not (38% vs 25%). Two-thirds of Democrats (67%) believe an economic downturn is inevitable, as do nearly three in five (59%) Independents.

By more than three to one, Americans believe that the epidemic is a national emergency, as President Donald Trump declared on Friday. A majority of Republicans, who have expressed skepticism about the seriousness of the outbreak in previous polls, agree. By more than five to one, Americans approve of the president declaring the national emergency.

Coronavirus: Government Response

Concern about the epidemic’s economic ramifications can be seen already in respondents’ opinions about the current state of the economy. In the last week, the percentage of Americans who say the economy is getting worse jumped ten points to 41 percent, the highest figure for the entire Trump Presidency. Among political Independents, the share saying the economy is getting worse rose 16 points, from 26 percent saying that last week to 44 percent now.

Throughout the Trump administration, Republicans have consistently been optimistic about the state of the economy. Last week, three in four Republicans said they believed the economy was getting better. While a majority of Republicans still believe that, the percentage dropped 20 points this week to 55 percent. 

The virus has hit the personal finances of one in four Americans, Republicans as well as Democrats. It is notable that the groups most likely to report an impact are college graduates and those with family incomes greater than $100,000. About a third in those groups say the virus has financially affected them. 

Much of the concern may have been last week’s struggling stock market, but there is also significant worry about the future of jobs. For the first time since the President’s inauguration, more believe there will be fewer jobs in the country in six months than think there will be more. 

Although only one in ten of employed respondents say they are very worried about losing their job, two in five (40%) express at least some concern about the possibility. Those who are worried don’t think it will be easy to find another job quickly.

The economic implications appear to be hitting Americans more rapidly than the medical impact. The vast majority of Americans have yet to have a personal connection with COVID-19. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, conducted Sunday through early Tuesday, just over a third of Americans say there have been coronavirus cases in their community. Only 7 percent believe a friend or family member has been exposed, and just 2 percent know someone who has tested positive for the virus. 

Related: COVID-19 report: How the virus is affecting everything, from politics to brands

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll

Image: Getty