NEW YORK – Nearly 1 in 4 U.S. adults said they have been laid off or furloughed during the coronavirus outbreak, yet a bipartisan majority of Americans wants businesses to remain closed to slow the spread of the deadly virus despite its impact on the economy, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
The March 26-27 opinion poll, released Friday, also showed that the public is much more likely to heed the advice of doctors and local government officials than President Donald Trump.
Trump, who predicted in February that the virus would quickly disappear “like a miracle,” has communicated an uneven level of concern for the disease.
The president took a hard-line approach when he urged people to gather only in small groups. Later he appeared to change course, telling reporters that he would like businesses to reopen by Easter, on April 12.
The poll showed that most Americans do not want that.
Eighty-one percent said the country should continue social distancing initiatives, including “shelter at home” orders, “despite the impact to the economy.” This includes 89 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans.
Only 19 percent said they would like to end social distancing as soon as possible “to get the economy going again,” including 11 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of Republicans.
The commitment to social distancing comes at a time when many Americans are feeling high levels of concern about the economy. Only 30 percent of Americans said they felt that the U.S. economy was headed in the “right direction,” the lowest level of confidence in polling that goes back to February 2018.
Twenty-three percent said they have already lost their jobs because of the coronavirus or that their employer was forced to close and “I no longer go to work, but I am still employed by them.”
Many economists expect the U.S. unemployment rate will surpass the 10 percent level that the country experienced more than a decade ago during the Great Recession. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said it may rise as high as 30 percent.
The poll also found that 31 percent of Americans were “very likely” to follow Trump’s recommendations and guidance regarding the coronavirus.
In comparison, 66 percent said they would follow the instructions of medical doctors and 64 percent said they would follow the advice of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fifty-one percent said they would follow the advice from their state’s governor and 46 percent would follow health care directions from local police.
The poll was conducted online in English and has a credibility interval of 3 percent.
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