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8 In 10 Americans Support COVID-19 Shutdown, Kaiser Health Poll Finds

A person wearing a face mask walks down a mostly empty Michigan Avenue in Chicago Thursday. In all major political groups, most people say they support shelter-in-place orders to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent poll.
Timothy Hiatt
Getty Images
A person wearing a face mask walks down a mostly empty Michigan Avenue in Chicago Thursday. In all major political groups, most people say they support shelter-in-place orders to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent poll.

A majority of Americans — 8 in 10 — say strict shelter-in-place guidelines are worth it, to keep people safe from COVID-19 and control the spread of the virus, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll. The same percentage, of around 80% of Americans, also say they can follow the restrictions for at least one more month.

Only around 20% of Americans say the broad shelter-in-place measures are an unnecessary burden that is "causing more harm than good," the Kaiser Family Foundation reports.

One-third of respondents say they could obey the restrictions for an additional six months. But 14% of Americans in the poll say they can only observe the limitations for less than a month — and 3% say they can't do it at all.


Most people in the poll also say they've done a better job than their neighbors have at following physical distancing rules.

Majorities of all major political groups say they support the stay-at-home orders, although that sentiment is stronger among Democrats (94% approve the idea) and independents (84%) than Republicans (61%), according to the poll.

As of Thursday, the U.S. has confirmed more than 850,000 coronavirus cases, including more than 47,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 78,000 people have recovered from COVID-19.

Public sentiment about the future of the COVID-19 pandemic's toll on the U.S. has shifted markedly in the past few weeks, according to the poll. Only about half of the respondents now say "the worst is yet to come" — compared with 74% who held that opinion in late March.

The shift could reflect glimmers of optimism, such as projection models that recently lowered death toll predictions as a result of social distancing and other measures. But political groups are also more divided now than they were just several weeks ago, in how they view the pandemic.

The previous Kaiser tracking poll, from the last week of March, found a fairly united view that the worst effects of the coronavirus were yet to hit the U.S., with all political groups being within 10 percentage points of the 74% total for all respondents.

That picture has changed drastically, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports:

"Majorities of Democrats (64%) and independents (56%) continue to say the 'worst is yet to come,' but now one-fourth (27%) of Republicans say 'the worst is yet to come' (down 39 percentage points from the March 25-30 KFF Poll). A slight majority (53%) of Republicans say 'the worst is behind us,' " with smaller numbers of the other groups also expressing more optimism."

The new poll was conducted over several days, including April 16 – the day President Trump laid out guidelines for states to reopen. This week, the governors of several states have begun to relax some of the restrictions that have been put on businesses and citizens, hoping to breathe life into economies that have absorbed millions of job losses.

Reflecting the pandemic's broad impact, 84% of Americans said their lives have been disrupted by the coronavirus.

Most Americans give themselves and their households high marks for following social distancing guidelines in the past two weeks, with 53% saying they would give themselves an "A" grade. Just 35% said they would give their neighbors an "A" — but another 35% said their neighbors have earned a "B."

The Kaiser poll was conducted from April 15 to 20, through phone calls with 1,202 adults. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish; all but 261 of the conversations took place via cellphones.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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