Yahoo News/YouGov coronavirus poll: Most Americans reject anti-lockdown protests

Andrew Romano
West Coast Correspondent

An overwhelming majority of Americans, Republicans included, are rejecting right-wing protests — encouraged by President Trump — to immediately “reopen” the country in the midst of the world’s largest and deadliest coronavirus outbreak, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

The survey, conducted April 17 to April 19, found that a full 60 percent of the public opposes the largely pro-Trump protesters whose calls for governors to “liberate” their states by lifting lockdown measures have attracted intense media attention in recent days — and whose message the president amplified Friday in a series of all-caps “LIBERATE” tweets about three swing states: Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia.

Only 22 percent of Americans say they support the protesters. Despite Trump’s messaging, even Republicans oppose the protests 47 percent to 36 percent. Asked whether they agree or disagree with Trump’s “LIBERATE” tweets, only a quarter of Americans say they agree.

The total number of protesters may be small. But the public’s dismissive attitude toward them reflects a deeper sentiment: Americans strongly disagree with those who claim the country is ready to reopen for business. 

The margins aren’t close. Seventy-one percent of Americans — and 56 percent of Republicans — say they are more concerned about lifting the coronavirus restrictions too quickly than lifting them too slowly. Only 29 percent of Americans say the opposite. The same number (71 percent) say they want public health officials “to be fully able to test and trace new cases and outbreaks” before reopening; only 29 percent say they want the country to reopen “as soon as possible to prevent further economic damage.” And more than twice as many Americans say the U.S. is not conducting enough coronavirus testing to track future outbreaks of the virus (52 percent) than say it is (22 percent).

As a result, a mere 13 percent of Americans think their own community will be ready to reopen by May 1, the date Trump has been pushing for weeks. Only 7 percent say the U.S. as a whole will be ready to reopen by then. Eighty-one percent of all adults (and 74 percent of Republicans) believe that the virus will be a “serious problem” for them and their community for two months or more, and three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) say the entire country will not be ready to reopen until at least June. Nearly half (48 percent) say the U.S. will not be ready to reopen until July 1 or later.

The reason, according to the poll, is that nearly 90 percent of Americans think a resurgence of coronavirus cases would be either “very” (51 percent) or “somewhat” likely (36 percent) if lockdown ended today. Overall, 79 percent continue to say that stay-at-home orders are “the only way to stop the spread of COVID-19”; only 21 percent say “the cure is worse than the disease.” Trump has tweeted about the lockdowns: “THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM!” In deciding when to reopen, far more Americans say the U.S. should pay attention to doctors and public health officials (56 percent) than to economists and business leaders (7 percent); 37 percent want both consulted equally. Health, not the economy, comes first.

Trump did not fare well in the poll. A plurality of Americans — 49 percent to 45 percent — disapprove of the way the president has handled the pandemic.

But that’s consistent with previous Yahoo News/YouGov polls.

More telling were the specific questions about responsibility and trust. Fifty-nine percent of Americans rate their state and local government’s coronavirus response as “excellent” or “good”; only 48 percent of those who’ve heard from Trump in the last week say the same about him. Nearly half of Americans (49 percent) say they trust their governor more than the president to handle the pandemic; only a quarter (26 percent) say the opposite. Nearly three out of four Americans (74 percent) say their governor should decide when their state should reopen. Just 13 percent want Trump to make that decision. And even though Trump has argued otherwise, more than half of Americans (52 percent) say the federal government — rather than individual states (31 percent) — should be responsible for ramping up testing in the weeks ahead.

President Trump speaks at the coronavirus task force briefing on April 16. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Overall, 65 percent of Americans say that Trump could have reduced the damage done by the coronavirus — either “a lot” (41 percent) or “somewhat” (24 percent) — if he had acted sooner.

In keeping with that finding, most Americans seem to take the long view in terms of transitioning out of lockdown. Two-thirds of Americans (67 percent), including 66 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans, say they will continue to practice social distancing even after official restrictions are lifted; just 13 percent of Americans say they will not.

Asked about specific social distancing measures, a large majority (72 percent) supports continuing to stay 6 feet away from other people whenever possible. Roughly half also support wearing cloth masks in public (50 percent), requiring restaurant waiters to wear masks and gloves (47 percent) and suspending large events like concerts and conferences (54 percent).

Meanwhile, a full 57 percent of Americans say they would support being repeatedly and regularly tested for the coronavirus in order to limit its spread after lockdown ends, and a plurality (39 percent) say they would install a smartphone app (like the one floated by Apple and Google) that would allow them to anonymously alert people who’ve been near them if they test positive for the virus — while also allowing them to be alerted if they’ve been close to someone else who tests positive. Both measures are key elements of the “test-trace-isolate” strategy that experts and epidemiologists have proposed for containing future coronavirus outbreaks.

The Yahoo! News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,597 U.S. adult residents interviewed online between April 17-19, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S residents. The margin of error is approximately 3.0 percent.

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Click here for the latest coronavirus news and updates. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please refer to the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

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