Two months after the coronavirus shuttered much of the United States economy, the outbreak’s impact — on jobs, health care, food access and much more — is growing only more severe, according to a growing body of polling and social science data.
But here’s what else the polls are telling us: Americans are generally uninterested in returning to normal, and they tend to believe federal health experts, who continue to warn against a swift reopening of the economy.
But more than two-thirds of respondents said in a Pew Research Center poll out Thursday that they were more concerned that state governments would reopen their economies too quickly than that they might take too long — roughly on par with past responses to the same question.
And in a survey released late last month by The Associated Press and NORC, 68 percent of Americans said they had a great deal of trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide them with reliable information about the pandemic. That’s three times as much as the dismal 23 percent who said they definitely trusted Mr. Trump’s statements on the virus.
Polling can tell us about more than what people think: It can offer insights into their day-to-day lives. In this regard, a quickly accruing body of data suggests that — even as the days pass into weeks, and many people have settled into something resembling a quarantine routine — the livelihoods of those at the margins have grown much more threatened.
Over 33 million people have joined the unemployment rolls in less than two months, a higher and faster spike than at any prior moment in American history. And the pain is in fact greater than that number reflects. Fully half of working Americans said in a PBS/NPR/Marist College poll late last month that someone in their household had lost work as a result of the virus. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey also released in late April, more than three in 10 Americans said they had sought to apply for jobless benefits at some point in the past two months.
Researchers at the Economic Policy Institute used a nonscientific survey to estimate that in addition to those already on the unemployment rolls, eight to 12 million people could have applied for joblessness benefits since the start of the pandemic but did not. Most of those people, the study determined, reported that they had sought to file for unemployment but had been unable to make it through the application; others simply did not make an attempt.
“We unfortunately in the United States have pretty fragile social support systems,” Ben Zipperer, an economist at the institute, said in an interview. “We’re dealing with systems that were not necessarily in great shape before the crisis, and now we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and they’re stretched to their limits.”
The implications of such staggering job losses carry over into other facets of life, including health care access and food security. According to a separate analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, as of last week nearly 13 million people had lost access to employer-provided health care.
Meanwhile, a Brookings Institution survey released on Wednesday found that more than 40 percent of households with children 12 and under were struggling to afford the food they needed.
So perhaps it is unsurprising that in the A.P./NORC poll from late April, 56 percent of respondents said that if they received a stimulus check, they would use it to cover regular expenses or to pay back debt.
It has now been over a month since Congress voted to send $1,200 checks to most Americans, and legislators have not yet taken meaningful steps toward another infusion of cash for workers.
The virus’s effects are being felt most acutely in states with a high concentration of people in cities, and the six most-infected states per capita all trend Democratic politically. Black people and Latinos are showing some of the highest rates of infection: More than a quarter of all confirmed cases have been among Latinos, according to C.D.C. statistics, and even more have been among African-Americans.
In the tristate area, the virus’s epicenter, about four in five respondents to a Quinnipiac University poll released this week said they worried that a family member might become seriously ill from the virus. And more than six in 10 in the poll said they personally knew someone who had tested positive for it.
Medical experts — and the experiences of other countries that have been relatively successful at containing the virus — indicate that short of a vaccine, the best hope for a healthy return to economic activity lies in widespread access to testing. But 75 percent of respondents in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut said in the Quinnipiac poll that they thought more testing would be needed in order for it to become safe for their state to begin lifting stay-at-home orders.
Reflective of national polling, 71 percent of those respondents said they wanted their state government to focus on controlling the virus, not on reopening.