When Trump announced his administration’s guidelines for states to start scaling back the measures, which have led to the economic contraction, he insisted that the process was being driven by broad demand to do so.
“We’re opening up our country — and we have to do that,” the president said in a White House briefing on April 16. “America wants to be open, and Americans want to be open.”
Polling, though, has continually indicated that, while Americans may want life to return to normal, they also believe that the short-term need to confront the virus is a more urgent consideration. The same day Trump made that comment, the Pew Research Center released a poll showing that Americans were twice as worried about the country opening up too quickly as opening too slowly.
It was nonetheless worth wondering, though, if those facing more economic hardship saw increased urgency about rolling back social distancing measures. Data from a Kaiser Family Foundation poll published last week and shared with The Washington Post offers an answer: They do not.
According to the KFF poll, more than 4 in 10 respondents had seen some loss of income in their households, because they or their spouse had been fired, furloughed or otherwise lost hours as a result of the efforts to combat the virus.
For most of those who’d seen declines in work and pay, the reduction posed a problem. Nearly three-quarters said this reduction was at least a minor problem for their households. More than 4 in 10 said it was a major problem.
Broadly, about a fifth of respondents had seen a loss of work or income in their households and saw it as a major problem. About a quarter lost income or work and saw it as less of a problem or not a problem. About 6 in 10 hadn’t lost income or work at the time the poll was conducted, from April 15 to 20.
What’s remarkable is that views of shelter-in-place measures were the same among all of these groups. There was no significant difference in the percentage of people who said social distancing measures were worth the cost between those who’d seen no economic impact and those who said the impacts were a major problem for their households. Both groups broadly support the measures.
More interestingly, there wasn’t any significant difference in how long each group said it could follow the existing guidelines. In each group, about 4-in-5 respondents said that they could continue to maintain distancing efforts for another month. There was no significant difference, for example, in the percentage who said that they couldn’t abide by the measures for even a day longer whether the respondents had seen a major economic impact or no impact at all.
There are some caveats to this polling that are worth noting. The first is that the poll overlapped with Trump’s push to reopen the country but could conceivably have shifted in the week since it was completed. The second is that most people who’d seen a loss of work or hours believed that they would regain that work and their old incomes within the next six months.
That said, it’s worth noting that a third of respondents in each of the above groups said that they could maintain the existing measures for six months or more. Americans want things to get back to normal — but the vast majority in each group, including those seeing the worst economic effects, think that that can happen sometime after May.