One-quarter of Americans have a family member or friend who has died from COVID-19

Linley SandersData Journalist
January 11, 2021, 8:20 PM UTC

January is anticipated to be the deadliest month on record for the United States’ coronavirus deaths as the virus continues to spread unchecked and vaccine rollouts stall. The latest Economist/YouGov poll indicates that one-quarter (27%) of Americans now have a family member or close friend who has died from COVID-19 complications.

One in 11 Americans (9%) report having lost a family member to COVID-19 and one in five (20%) say a close friend has died from complications of the illness. (There is some overlap, with some Americans having lost both friends and family, which is why the figures for both groups don’t sum to the overall 27% rate).

Black Americans — who have been disproportionately impacted by the virus — are twice as likely (19%) as US adults overall to have experienced the death of a family member due to coronavirus complications. Two in five (39%) Black Americans have lost a close friend (24%) or family member (19%) because of it. 

About three in five Americans (59%) now know someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. One in 13 Americans (7%) report personally having tested positive for COVID-19, while one-third have a family member (32%) or close friend (36%) who has received a positive test. (As with the previous question, overlapping answers mean the figures for the three groups don’t sum to the overall 59% rate). 

One in 10 Americans between 18-to 29-years-old (10%) report testing positive for COVID-19, bolstering data from the World Health Organization that young people are key spreaders of the virus. While young Americans are more likely to say they have personally tested positive for the virus, Americans aged 65 and above are more likely than those under 30 to know family (36% vs 27%) or friends (40% vs 26%) who have tested positive. 

Related: The partisan COVID-19 divide continues, though Republicans worry more as cases rise  

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 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between January 3 - 5, 2021. 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 3.3% for the overall sample.      

Image: Getty