WTOP coronavirus poll: Public weary of coverage, planning out-of-home activities

The number of Americans checking the news several times a day for coronavirus updates is down significantly from last week, and despite ongoing stay-at-home orders, a growing number of people are planning to get out of the house, according to a WTOP national poll conducted by Heart+Mind Strategies.

In the online poll of 1,001 people, conducted between April 8 and 9, the number of those checking for COVID-19 updates multiple times a day is down 9 points from last week to 33%, and daily news consumption stands at 73%, down 5 points.

“I think we’re seeing increasing fatigue people have on just the amount of news that’s being generated by this situation,” said Erin Norman, senior solutions consultant with the polling firm.

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In the fourth week of the poll, the number of Americans who believe coronavirus is a real threat dropped for the first time — down 4 points, to 79%.

Given the number of deaths associated with the novel coronavirus, Norman said she does not believe people are questioning the severity of the disease.

“I do think that it becomes an issue of a personal threat. We see some geographic breaks where the number of people who believe it’s a real threat in New England and the Mid Atlantic census region, which is New York [which has the most coronavirus cases in the country], New Jersey, Pennsylvania, are significantly more likely to believe it’s a real threat,” Norman said.

Norman believes those in more remote areas of the country are less likely to consider the coronavirus a “real threat.”

“I think there is a realness of it that depends on where you live and what’s going on there,” Norman said. “Is my hospital overloaded? Do I know somebody? You know, what are the total number of cases in the area that I live in?”

This week’s latest poll found a significant uptick in the number of people planning out-of-home activities: One-in-five are planning personal travel, up 8%.

A similar number, 22%, plan to dine out in the next two weeks, which is up 6% over last week.

“This was really surprising given that none of the official stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders have been lifted yet,” Norman said. “That obviously has huge implications for the degree to which people continue to follow these orders and the amount of policing that’s needed to keep people in compliance.”

The trend toward planning out-of-home activities is being driven by millennials — those born in the early 1980s through early 1990s — Norman said.

“We’re starting to see people get really weary of the current situation and looking to the future to make plans for the things that they can hopefully start doing again.”

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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