Public Opinion on Coronavirus Update

Thursday, December 17, 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 1,003 registered voters conducted December 10-14, 2020. 102 additional interviews were conducted among Hispanic voters and 105 additional interviews were conducted among African American voters.

Key takeaways

  • Almost three in four Americans now know someone who has been infected with coronavirus.
  • Three in five Americans say they are likely to get the coronavirus vaccine.
  • The biggest concerns about Trump’s handling of the vaccine are letting partisan politics get in the way of a smooth rollout and Trump and Republicans’ encouraging of the spread of dangerous misinformation.

Nearly Three in Four Know Someone Who Has Been Infected With Coronavirus, a Significant Increase Since the Election

In the last two months, the share who know someone who has been infected with coronavirus has jumped nearly 20 points, with an overwhelming majority knowing someone who has gotten infected.

  • Groups especially likely to know someone who has been infected include college-educated Americans (79%), midwestern Americans (79%), and Hispanic Americans (77%).

The Pandemic is Seen as the Most Important Issue for President-Elect Biden and the New Congress to Focus On

The issues Americans rate as most important for Biden and the new Congress to focus on include the pandemic, jobs and the economy, and health care.

  • When asked what Trump and the current Congress should be focused on, Americans pick the same top six items.

As Cases Surge, Biden and Democrats More Trusted to Handle the Pandemic than the Republican Party

Joe Biden and the Democratic Party are trusted more on a range of issues than the Republican Party, overall and among independents.

Pessimism About the Pandemic is Back Near Levels Not Seen Since Mid-Summer Wave

Since last asked in mid-October, the share who say the “worst is yet to come” in the pandemic has grown 6 points, while the share who say the “worst is over” has declined by 3 as cases in America continue to rise.

  • Among independents, 65% say the “worst is yet to come,” as do 75% of Democrats.

Half Continue to Support More Aggressive Social Distancing

A near-majority of Americans continue to say we “need more aggressive social distancing” while only 18% of Americans say we “should relax social distancing.”

  • One in three (34%) Republicans say we should relax distancing, while 38% say we are doing the right thing.

Few Americans Say Pandemic Threat Has Been Exaggerated, But the Question Divides Republicans

A plurality of Americans say the threat of coronavirus is generally underestimated in the news.

  • Republicans who do not know someone who has been infected by coronavirus are more likely to say it has been exaggerated (54%) than those who do know someone who has been infected (42%).

Majorities of Democrats and Independents Support New Lockdowns Amid Community Coronavirus Outbreaks

Half of Americans support lockdowns for non-essential businesses if there are new outbreaks in their community.

  • Compared to other Democrats, Democrats who oppose lockdowns are especially likely to be from blue collar or service industry jobs (31%), to lack a college degree (75%), and to come from communities of color (50%).
  • Republicans who support lockdowns are especially likely to identify as moderate or liberal (44%).

Most Americans See Risk in Traveling for Holidays

Majorities of Democrats and independents say it is risky to travel to see others for the holidays and people should just stay home, while a majority of Republicans acknowledge the risk in traveling, but understand why people would do it after the last year apart from family.

  • On a separate question, while 71% of Democrats say they have traveled much less than they normally would in the holiday season, only 49% of Republicans say the same with 32% who say they have traveled as usual.

Pandemic Pain Comes Most from Day-to-Day Activities

Items that Americans rate as less difficult across party lines include catching the coronavirus, having children who have not been able to go to school, or not being able to visit elderly family members.

Three in Five Likely to Get the Coronavirus Vaccine

While a majority of Americans say they are likely to get the vaccine, nearly a third say it’s unlikely.

Experts and Regulators Widely Trusted to Tell the Truth About the Vaccine

While Biden and a group of former presidents are trusted by a majority of Americans overall to tell the truth about the safety of a coronavirus vaccine, people like Dr. Fauci and groups like the FDA are more trusted by independents and Republicans than political leaders.

Top Concerns on Trump’s Vaccine Handling: Partisan Politics Interrupting a Smooth Roll-Out and Dangerous Misinformation

The two issues that concern Americans who have either major or minor concerns with Trump’s handling of the coronavirus vaccine are Republicans’ allowing of partisan politics to get in the way and the spread of misinformation.