WTOP coronavirus poll: For 1st time, concerns over economic balance top public health focus

For the first time, the number of Americans who believe the need to balance economic concerns with public health during the coronavirus crisis is higher than the number who believe public health should be the sole focus, according to a WTOP national poll conducted by Heart+Mind Strategies.

The online poll of 1,000 people was conducted between April 22 and April 23.

“For the first time since we’ve been tracking, the numbers have tipped so the number of Americans saying we need to balance economic concerns with public health concerns — 48% — outnumber those who believe we need to focus solely on public health — 44%,” said Erin Norman, senior solutions consultant with the polling firm.

The drive to include economic concerns with public health ones is being headed by political independents (48%, up 9%) and Republicans (64%, up 9%). Democrats have only moved slightly compared to last week (33%, up 2%).

Millennials — those born between approximately 1980 and 1994 — are also more likely to want to consider the economy in policy decisions (54%, up 13%).

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In the sixth week of the survey, the firm measured whether Americans think stay-at-home and similar government orders should be relaxed. Norman said, “41% believe that it’s time to relax these orders, let businesses reopen and let Americans do more than they’re currently allowed to do, in a lot of places.”

The figures are higher among those who have been laid off (56%), Republicans (52%), and those in urban locations (46%).

“The unifying days seem to be waning,” said Norman. “There was an 11-point increase in the number of Americans who say the crisis is dividing us more than uniting us — it’s still a minority at 35%, but an 11-point jump is pretty significant.”

Increases are equally large among all political affiliations, including independents, and the shifts are more noticeable among younger generations, Norman said.

With so much time at home, the poll measured how people were tweaking their routines, to occupy their time and get satisfaction. Cooking (cited by 33% of respondents) and entertainment (also cited by 33%) are the two areas where Americans have developed the best alternative routines during the crisis.

According to the survey, 71% of people said they believe there will be permanent changes to their routines — including social interactions with their friends — because of the coronavirus crisis. Younger generations — millennials and Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2015, are more likely to see changes to routines become permanent.

The poll was an online quantitative survey. The surveyors say that if they were to estimate a margin of error, it would be +/- 3.1% at 95% confidence.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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