Coronavirus poll: most Americans taking steps to stay healthy

A new AP-NORC poll finds that majority of Americans are following state-advised precautionary measures to protect their families and minimize the spread of COVID-19.  

Patrick Semansky/AP
A woman wearing a face mask walks past the White House in Washington on April 1, 2020. A new poll found that Americans are increasingly taking preventative measures, including staying away from large crowds and avoiding touching their hands to their faces.

Americans in overwhelming numbers are actively avoiding others as much as possible and taking additional steps to protect themselves from the coronavirus, according to a survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research that shows how concerns about infection have grown sharply in the past six weeks.

The survey finds Americans are increasingly isolating, washing their hands, and avoiding touching their face. Large portions of the country are confronting layoffs and pay cuts and are adjusting to kids forced home from school and day care amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has upended American life and the nation's economy.

Half of Americans now say they are extremely or very worried that they or a family member will be infected by the virus. That compares with 31% who said the same in mid-March and 22% who said so in February. Another 34% are somewhat worried, while just 16% say they are not worried.

The spike in concern comes as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has grown to about 1.3 million worldwide and about 340,000 in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. Containment efforts have canceled in-person classes for most of the country's students, thrown more than 10 million people out of work, and put 90% of the population under stay-at-home orders.

Confronted by the seriousness of the pandemic, Americans are more likely than they were in mid-March to report taking protective steps. Today, 94% of Americans say they are staying away from large groups, up from 68%. Somewhat fewer, though still an overwhelming majority, 86% say they are avoiding other people as much as possible.

Most states are now under a statewide stay-at-home order, while in the remaining states some orders have been issued at the city or county level. But there are not wide differences in behavior based on where a person lives, according to the poll. Americans in states that were not under a statewide stay-at-home order on or before March 26 were about as likely as Americans in states that were under such a directive to say they were avoiding contact with others.

"To me it was just common sense," said Richard Walker of St. Augustine, Florida, who said he and his family began making changes weeks before Gov. Ron DeSantis last Wednesday issued a statewide stay-at-home order.

Mr. Walker said that he and his wife are no longer watching their young granddaughter once a week and that their daughter is doing their grocery shopping. To celebrate his son's birthday on Tuesday, the family gathered in the son's driveway – staying at least 10 feet apart – and sang "Happy Birthday." The party continued later via FaceTime, a video phone app.

"It's all you can do right now," Mr. Walker said.

The change in behavior isn't limited to staying at home or avoiding groups. Ninety-two percent of Americans say they are washing their hands more frequently and 70% are avoiding touching their face. About half, 52%, now report stocking up on extra food, compared with 35% who said they were doing so earlier in March. Still, just 16% say they are consulting with a health care provider.

While the public's concern has risen overall, there still remain partisan differences.

Republicans are far less worried than Democrats about themselves or a relative being infected with the coronavirus. Just 35% are extremely or very worried, compared with 61% of Democrats who are highly concerned. Another 4 in 10 Republicans are somewhat worried, and about another quarter are not worried.

Still, the share of Republicans who are very worried has grown from just 21% in AP-NORC's mid-March poll.

The widespread closing of schools and day cares also has caused concern. Among parents with a child in school or day care, nearly all, 96%, say it has closed. About a third of them say they are extremely or very concerned about their child falling behind academically, with another third somewhat concerned.

Mia Morris, of Atlanta, said she and her kids, ages 18 and 16, are doing the best they can to adjust to online learning. Ms. Morris is in a technical school program that has moved to online classes, and she watches a first grader.

"It's hard because we're not used to it, but we all pull together and help each other," Ms. Morris said. And when they still don't know the answers, there's another option: "We go to Google a lot."

The closing of businesses and global economic uncertainty have widely impacted working Americans. Among those who were employed prior to the outbreak, 23% say they or a household member has already been laid off, 38% scheduled for fewer hours, 27% taken unpaid time off, and 26% had wages or salary reduced.

In all, about half of workers have experienced at least one form of lost household income. Those with lower incomes and without college degrees are especially likely to say households have been hit by layoffs.

Kyle Beason, of Bowling Green, Ohio, said he and his girlfriend both have had their hours slashed at the manufacturing plant where they work, from 40 hours per week to a low of 24 hours because the appliance makers who buy the parts they produce aren't placing as many orders. He said the couple is still able to pay the bills, but that could change if things don't improve soon.

"I'm hoping that people do what they need to do – stay home as much as they can or stay away from people – so we can get over it," Mr. Beason said.

The AP-NORC poll of 1,057 adults was conducted March 26-29 using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and later were interviewed online or by phone.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. 

Editor’s note: As a public service, the Monitor has removed the paywall for all our coronavirus coverage. It’s free.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Coronavirus poll: most Americans taking steps to stay healthy
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today