A majority of adults in the U.S. are aware of the symptoms of the coronavirus, who it impacts most and how to best prevent it, according to a national survey by Elon University Poll.
Adults are most concerned about how the disease, also known as COVID-19, will affect their financial well-being and the American health system.
Kaye Usry, assistant director of Elon Poll, said the survey sheds light on the thoughts of the American people at a time when the coronavirus outbreak is “at the top of every American’s mind at the moment.”
“This is a survey about a major, developing news story that will likely directly affect every American,” Ursy said. “This is a truly unique moment in history, and we wanted to offer some insights into what Americans know about it in these early stages.”
The national survey was conducted from March 16 to 17 and included 3,270 U.S. adults. Respondents were given 25 statements regarding the coronavirus and how it will affect them and were asked if they agreed with, disagreed with or were unsure about each statement. In addition, respondents were asked about what media outlets they are following and how often they are following coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.
The survey results found that many adults are preparing for the long-term impacts of the coronavirus. Approximately 66% of respondents agreed with the statement “my life will be disrupted for more than two months due to coronavirus.”
A majority of adults also said the American healthcare system will struggle to handle the coronavirus. Nearly 70% of respondents disagreed with the statement “There are enough hospital beds and intensive care units in the United States, even if there is a major outbreak.” A little more than half of respondents also disagreed with the statement “Health officials have an accurate idea of the scale of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.”
Respondents also expressed concerns about the impact the coronavirus will have on their finances after the pandemic reaches its peak. Almost 74% agreed with the statement “I’m worried about the impact of the coronavirus on my personal financial situation.”
The survey also took into account the respondent’s age, location, level of education as well as political affiliation. Usry said the results show Republicans and Democrats “actually agree about many of the key facts about coronavirus.”
“As more and more Republican elected officials communicate the gravity of the coronavirus outbreak, I expect the partisan divide in views about coronavirus will dissipate,” Usry said.
Following the cancelation of primaries in states like Ohio, Usry said the coronavirus could also impact the upcoming election in “a number of ways,” potentially depressing voter turnout in November.
“Indirectly, the current economic conditions, should they continue, are not favorable for incumbent politicians,” Usry said. “More directly, the virus has already affected turnout in Democratic primary elections, which could be an issue in the fall, too.”
While Republicans and Democrats were united on some issues, other statements in the poll were met with uncertainty. More than 60% of respondents disagreed with or were unsure about the statement “Coronavirus will likely kill at least 100,000 Americans.”
In the “notable open-ended comments” section of the survey report, one Georgia resident expressed concern about those not taking the threat of the coronavirus seriously. In response to the statement “a lot of people are not taking the coronavirus seriously enough,” the survey found that 62% of respondents agreed.
“Most people in my community are not taking the threat seriously,” the 34-year-old Georgia resident said. “People are still out and about and actively spreading the virus. Every time people gather in public, they are making the world more dangerous for the rest.”
As of March 19, Georgia had 178 coronavirus cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A North Carolina survey of 1,167 adults was conducted at the same time as the national survey to see if there were any differences in knowledge or opinion of the coronavirus. A 69-year-old resident said they were most concerned about misinformation surrounding the coronavirus.
“People who are not listening to the truth about the symptoms, how it is spread, what to do if they think they have it,” the NC resident said. “Too much disinformation is being spread & too many people are getting wrong info about what to do.”
North Carolinians, however, did not differ from the rest of the country.
“We decided to explore what North Carolinians and the country as a whole know about coronavirus, and it turns out that North Carolina residents aren’t dramatically different from the rest of the nation,” Usry said.