State Policy Network
Coronavirus Poll, Wave 16: Confusion, trust in leadership, and school reopenings

This summary shares the latest data from Wave 16 (August 5-6, 2020) of SPN’s and Heart+Mind Strategies’ bi-weekly coronavirus poll, which follows Americans’ reactions to the pandemic and its impact on health, education, economic wellbeing, and other key aspects of daily life.

The latest poll, conducted on August 5-6, 2020, reveals healthcare, the economy, and jobs and unemployment are top issues on Americans’ minds. Americans are focusing less on virus-related news, yet they remain eager for more data to understand what’s going on and what comes next for themselves and their families.

The current level of concern

For Americans, the coronavirus remains a health concern:

Americans’ concerns are compounded by a lack of clear information.

Trust in institutions and leadership

When it comes to reopening, a majority still favor making decisions closer to home. Fifty-seven percent thinks reopening decisions should rest with states, and 27% believe the federal government should make final decisions. Sixteen percent of Americans are unsure.

Public opinion is split on what reopening guidelines should include. Forty-three percent say guidelines for protecting ourselves and others should be based on local conditions. Thirty-nine percent would prefer to see a strict approach, while 18% are unsure about what approach would be most effective.

In addition to reopening decisions, the upcoming presidential election is impacting Americans’ confidence in leadership.

Going back to school

Some schools started back this week, and Americans are following the news about it almost as closely as the outbreak itself.

Fifty-two percent think a return to normal isn’t possible until school and childcare services resume. Forty-nine percent disagreed with the statement that K-12 public schools should resume in-person and full-time for the 2020-2021 school year.

Parents responding to the poll indicated timeframes they are considering for letting their child return to school or daycare:

In this wave of polling, parent responders also shared how their school systems are approaching the 2020-2021 school year. Most school systems have plans to embrace a hybrid of in-person instructions and online learning.

Healthcare: Vaccines and treatments

Seventy-four percent think there will be a vaccine in the next 12 months. But will they take it?

Economy and a return to normalcy

People have some hope of returning to normal activities on a small scale. Large-scale exposures are pegged as being a year out or more.
In the next month:

It will be more than a year before:

Americans views are somewhat divided about how coronavirus cases will change come fall and what it will mean for the economy.

Forty-five percent still think we must balance public health concerns with economic concerns. However, 42% think all of our energy should be devoted to public health. The biggest grouping seems to be in the “somewhat” categories (19% and 20% respectively) and the undecideds (12%).

Understanding the impact on Americans’ values

Fifty-four percent feel that the pandemic is creating divisions among people and across the nation. Only 26% feel it’s bringing us closer together—a new low since this polling project started in March 2020.

Americans are still feeling a decline when it comes to values that shape a peaceful, secure life:

Expectations for government’s response

Despite their reduced focus on virus-related news, people are more likely to want the government to focus on it. Support for letting other policy agenda items sit until the virus is addressed is up six points to 35%.

There is also an uptick in the number of people who want to see centralized decisions about re-opening the economy (27%, +4 from July 22-23), although the number saying we need Asian-style government control is the same (39%, +0 from July 22-23).

Forty percent think businesses have done a good or excellent job in response to the pandemic (+4 from July 22-23), 42% think a fair job (46% from July 22-23), and 18% bad or terrible (+0 from July 22-23).  

About SPN’s coronavirus polling

Since March 2020, State Policy Network and Heart + Mind Strategies have tracked American reactions and needs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. SPN shares these insights on a weekly basis to help nonprofit think tanks effectively communicate with their states about policies that will solve local problems in ways that truly meet their communities’ needs.

Organization: State Policy Network