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Poll: Many Americans See Room For Some Middle Ground On Reopening

Circles designed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus by encouraging social distancing in San Francisco's Dolores Pa



Circles designed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus by encouraging social distancing in San Francisco’s Dolores Park on May 21, 2020. 

Most Americans continue to support measures to control the coronavirus outbreak, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds, with only about one-fifth chafing at the level of restrictions they personally face. A significant number, however, see room for some reopening.

As the coronavirus outbreak first ballooned across the U.S., dozens of polls found consistent, overwhelming support for a vigorous government response. Now, with states across the country reopening in partial and piecemeal fashion, the way pollsters measure Americans’ preferences could prove increasingly important.

The HuffPost/YouGov survey included three different questions about restrictions, each with a different number of options respondents could choose from. They include:

  • A binary question, which we’ve been tracking since late March, on whether state stay-at-home orders are currently the right or wrong decision. In response, 67% say these orders are the right decision and 21% that they are the wrong decision.

  • A question on Americans’ preferences for restrictions in their own area (asked of half the respondents), with one middle option. In response, 31% say there should be restrictions shutting down all nonessential businesses and activities. The lion’s share, 43%, say that there should be restrictions on some nonessential businesses and activities. Another 13% say that there shouldn’t be any restrictions.

  • A question on Americans’ preferences for restrictions in their own area (asked of the other half), with two middle options. In response, 26% say there should be restrictions shutting down all nonessential businesses and activities. Another 26% say there should be restrictions on most nonessential businesses and activities; 28% say there should be restrictions on a few nonessential businesses and activities. Just 11% want to see no restrictions at all.

Chart showing the results of a new HuffPost/YouGov survey on the coronavirus outbreak.



Chart showing the results of a new HuffPost/YouGov survey on the coronavirus outbreak.

No single question is demonstrably the “right” way to ask about the restrictions, especially given the wide range of situations that Americans are currently living through. But taken together, the results suggest there’s some nuance in public opinion on how and when to reopen the country.

A 44% plurality of the public, meanwhile, says the level of restrictions in place where they live is about right, with 27% saying there aren’t enough restrictions and 19% that there are too many.

Americans’ worries about coronavirus, which peaked in early April, have since largely stabilized, with 46% currently saying they’re very concerned about the national outbreak, and about one-third that they’re very concerned they or a family member will catch the disease. A 78% majority currently say they’re trying to stay home as much as possible, down from a peak of 89%. 

Chart showing the results of a new HuffPost/YouGov survey on the coronavirus outbreak.



Chart showing the results of a new HuffPost/YouGov survey on the coronavirus outbreak.

About 44% of Americans currently say they’d continue to stay home as much as possible even if all restrictions are lifted, with about 25% saying they’d leave the house more but continue to take major precautions, and 6% saying they’d go back to living normally. Another 14% say they’re not currently making an effort to stay home. 

The public is closely split in its ratings of Trump’s handling of coronavirus, with 45% approving and 47% disapproving. Forty-three percent approve of the handling of the issue by the government as a whole, with 47% disapproving.

A 64% majority believe the outbreak will have a lasting effect on the United States, with just 21% expecting things to soon get back to normal.

Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted May 15-17 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate.


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