Public Opinion on Coronavirus: Navigator Update

Friday, September 4, 2020

Welcome to NAVIGATOR – a project designed to better understand the American public’s views on issues of the day and help advocates, elected officials, and other interested parties understand the language, imagery, and messaging needed to make and win key policy arguments.

This release features findings from a national online survey of 1,007 registered voters conducted August 27 – 31, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • As more schools begin their year, two in three continue to say they are on the more “cautious side” of reopening.
  • Top concerns on reopening schools revolve around infection by coronavirus – of teachers, students, their families, and their communities.
  • Support for the federal government fully funding the USPS remains high.

Growing Share of K-12 Schools Have Begun Their School Years

In the last week, the share who report that the school year has begun in their community has grown 9 points.

  • Among parents, there has been a 12-point increase in the share who report the K-12 school year has begun.

Those in Communities With Fully In-Person or Fully Remote Schools Report Plan is Going “Well” More So Than Hybrid

More than three in five of those in communities with in-person schooling and those in communities with remote schooling say their schools’ plan is going well, while less than half of hybrid model communities say it is going well.

  • Those in communities with fully in-person schools are disproportionately Republican (+19R) and those in communities with fully remote schools are disproportionately Democrats (+16D).

As Many Schools Reopen, Support for Reopening Grows – Though Two in Three Still On Side of Being More Cautious

Underscoring the complexity of the schools issue, even while support for reopening schools is now almost even with opposition, there has been no change in the share who say they are on the “cautious” side of the debate.

Top Concerns On Schools Reopening Are Spread of the Virus to Children, Teachers, Families, and Communities

The issues that raise the most serious concerns all focus on coronavirus infection as a result of in-person schooling – while issues like the economy suffering from parents helping their children with schooling are far lower concerns.

Americans Blame Students, Colleges & Universities, and Trump Most for Recent Outbreaks at Colleges

The public blames students, colleges and universities, and Donald Trump most for recent outbreaks of coronavirus at colleges and universities that have reopened in-person.

  • Independents (25%) and Republicans (31%) are most likely to not blame anyone for recent college outbreaks.

Concerns on Trump’s School Approach: New Surges & Recklessness, Forcing Reopening Without Plan, Ignoring Experts

Overall and among those who are mixed on Trump, his pushing to reopen schools despite new surges, forcing schools to reopen without a national plan, and ignoring the experts are the critiques that raise the greatest concerns.

While Many are Unfamiliar with Education Secretary DeVos, Those Who Know Her Dislike Her Two to One

Just over half of Americans are familiar with Betsy DeVos – and among those who are familiar, most hold an unfavorable view, with 28% who say they have a “very unfavorable” view of the Secretary of Education.

Three in Four Continue to Support Fully Funding the USPS

Support for the federal government fully funding the USPS remains high, with the vast majority supporting fully funding and nearly half saying they “strongly support” fully funding.

Few See Debate About USPS as Resolved

The majority still say that the debate about the funding of the USPS remains unresolved. In the last week though, the share who say the debate on funding cuts and reductions in service at the USPS is ongoing has declined 10 points.

  • Republicans are the most likely to say the debate has been resolved and the USPS is now fully funded and working as it always has been (13%).

Number of Americans Planning to Vote By Mail in Decline

Many Americans continue to say they would likely vote by mail if it is an option in their state, though overall interest is 8 points lower than at the beginning of August.

  • Among independents, there has been a 14-point decline since August 3 in the share who say they will vote by mail.

Most Would-Be Mail Voters Say They Would Return Their Ballots Immediately

As the share who are voting by mail has decreased, three in ten still say that they will vote by mail and immediately fill out and return their ballot.

  • One in five independents (18%) and Republicans (19%) plan to vote by mail and immediately return their ballot, while more than two in five Democrats (44%) say the same.