COVID-19: Half of voters believe the worst is yet to come

Jamie BallardData Journalist
November 05, 2020, 3:20 PM UTC

Nearly eight months into the pandemic, registered voters tend to believe that the nation still hasn’t had its worst coronavirus moment.  

The latest polling from The Economist / YouGov finds that 51% of registered voters believe the pandemic is going to get worse. Far fewer (25%) believe that the worst part of the pandemic is behind us, and just 14% think that we’re currently in the worst part of the pandemic.  

After dipping to 35% in late August, the percentage of voters who believe the pandemic will get worse has steadily continued to trend upwards since then.  

As ever, there are partisan splits. Since this question began collecting data in May 2020, Democrats have consistently been more likely than both Independents and Republicans to believe that the pandemic will get worse.  

The most recent poll finds that 79% of Democrats now think the worst is yet to come. About half (48%) of Independents share this belief, along with one in five (20%) Republicans.  

Most voters also have a dire outlook when it comes to COVID-19 fatalities. As of writing, the Centers for Disease Control reports that almost 231,000 Americans have reportedly died from COVID-19.  

One-third (33%) of voters believe that by the end of 2020, somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 Americans will have died from the coronavirus. Just as many (32%) foresee between 250,000 and 1 million COVID-19 deaths before the year’s end. Another 5% believe that more than 1 million Americans will be killed by coronavirus by the end of the year.  

Democrats (56%) are more than four times as likely as Republicans (13%) to believe that at least 250,000 Americans will die of COVID-19 by the year’s end. Among Independents, 37% believe that 250,000 or more people will die from coronavirus this year.  

About half (48%) of Republicans believe that fewer than 200,000 people will have died from COVID-19 by the end of the year -- which might be confusing given that more than 200,000 deaths have already been reported. However, data from an August 2020 poll suggests that very few (19%) Republicans think that the government is accurately reporting the number of people who have died from coronavirus. About half (50%) of Republicans believe that the number of deaths has been exaggerated.  

Related: Willingness to be vaccinated rises for the first time since September 

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

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 registered voters interviewed online between October 31 - November 2, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.0% for the overall sample.   

Image: Getty