As US coronavirus deaths cross 100,000, most Americans expect even higher numbers

May 27, 2020, 8:20 PM UTC

American deaths from the coronavirus pandemic have crossed 100,000 in the United States. Most Americans in this week's Economist/YouGov Poll expect the death toll to rise even higher, with a quarter (26%) putting the final toll at double that milestone. But another quarter (24%) say the death toll will stay below even the latest reported numbers.

That is in part due to skepticism about the government’s figures. While more believe that the official death toll exceeds the reported numbers, about a quarter (23%) claim that the figures are inflated. Most who believe the government figures overestimate deaths put their final estimated total number of COVID-19 deaths at fewer than 100,000. Those who have lost a close friend or family member are only a little more likely to put the death toll at the higher end.

The poll was conducted May 23 - 26 — the weekend before the latest death toll rise. 

One thing does affect the expectation of a larger loss from the virus: a person’s own fears. Nearly half of those who don’t see the virus as a personal risk believe the death toll will not reach 100,000. The less likely one thinks the virus is a personal risk, the more likely a person is to believe the death toll is lower than the official count.  

Worries about personally contracting the virus continue to be felt by about two-thirds of the public, a level of concern that has remained since mid-March. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, Democrats feel more at risk from the virus than Republicans.  

Some of this is based on the track of the virus. Counties that voted for President Trump in 2016 have had far fewer coronavirus cases than counties that voted for Hillary Clinton. Some of that is because diseases can spread faster in densely populated areas, like big cities, which are heavily Democratic in voting preferences. Republican worries about contracting COVID-19 dropped in last week’s poll and remains low this week. Republicans are less worried about experiencing the virus now than at any point since mid-March. 

Most Democrats and Independents remain concerned.  

Personal experience — knowing someone who has died from the coronavirus — makes a difference. Four in five Americans with a close friend or family member who has died are worried about themselves personally contracting COVID-19.  

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

Image: Getty