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Most U.S. Adults Expect Long-Term COVID-19 Disruption

Most U.S. Adults Expect Long-Term COVID-19 Disruption

Story Highlights

  • 66% of Americans say COVID-19 crisis has disrupted their lives
  • 63% expect the disruption to last at least a few more months
  • 66% are following COVID-19 news very closely, second only to 9/11

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As COVID-19 ravages the U.S., more state and local officials are placing stringent restrictions on residents' activities in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. Two-thirds of Americans say they are following news stories about the pandemic "very closely," with the same percentage saying the situation has disrupted their lives -- either a great deal (30%) or a fair amount (36%). Nearly as many expect it to take a few more months (51%) or longer (12%) for the level of disruption to travel, work, school and public events to improve, while 36% say it will only be a few more weeks.

Donut charts. Americans’ views of the degree of disruption in their lives from COVID-19 and how long they expect they’ll last.

Some Americans are feeling the disruption more acutely than others. These include younger adults, those considered high-risk for serious complications from COVID-19, college graduates, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, those following the news about coronavirus "very closely," and those who live in cities or suburban areas.

Scope of COVID-19 Disruption in the U.S.
To what extent has your own life been affected or disrupted by the coronavirus situation?
A great deal A fair amount Not much/Not at all
% % %
18-29 37 36 28
30-49 33 36 31
50-64 30 35 34
65+ 20 37 43
High-risk medical condition
Someone in household with high risk 36 34 30
No one in household with high risk 26 38 36
College graduate 41 39 19
Not college graduate 25 35 40
Party identification
Democrats/Democratic-leaning independents 38 35 27
Republicans/Republican-leaning independents 22 39 39
How closely following COVID-19 news
Very closely 35 37 27
Somewhat closely 24 35 41
Big/Small city 34 32 34
Suburb 34 40 25
Town/Rural 25 39 37
GALLUP, March 13-22, 2020

Likewise, U.S. adults in most of these groups are also more likely than their counterparts to say the disruption will last at least a few more months.

Expectations for Duration of COVID-19 Disruption in the U.S.
How long do you think the level of disruption occurring to travel, school, work and public events in the U.S. will continue before it starts to improve?
A few more weeks A few more months/Longer
% %
18-29 36 64
30-49 38 62
50-64 38 59
65+ 31 67
High-risk medical condition
Someone in household with high risk 31 67
No one in household with high risk 39 61
College graduate 31 68
Not college graduate 38 60
Party identification
Democrats/Democratic-leaning independents 28 72
Republicans/Republican-leaning independents 43 55
How closely following COVID-19 news
Very closely 31 67
Somewhat closely 45 54
Big/Small city 39 61
Suburb 29 71
Town/Rural 36 62
GALLUP, March 13-22, 2020

These findings are from a Gallup poll that began on March 13, the day President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The poll ended on March 22, at which time an estimated one in three Americans were under "stay-at-home" orders in 12 states. Since then, more states have imposed similar restrictions -- resulting in roughly 50% of the U.S. population being urged to remain at home except for essential activities.

The poll was completed before the president said that he wants the U.S. to be "opened up" in time for Easter on April 12. Public health experts have since warned that this would be premature and that they expect the crisis to continue longer than that.

Americans' level of concern that they or someone in their family will be exposed to the novel coronavirus remains high -- more than three in five are very (24%) or somewhat (39%) worried. This level is roughly the same as it was in Gallup's prior reading earlier this month but much higher than it was in February. Worry about the COVID-19 crisis dwarfs past readings from previous health scares, including SARS, West Nile virus and anthrax.

Attention to COVID-19 News Among Gallup's Highest on Record

Few news stories in the past several decades have captured the attention of the American public like the novel coronavirus situation has. Gallup has asked Americans how closely they are following the news about more than 200 separate events since the 1990s. Only one event, 9/11, had a higher percentage of Americans following the news very closely. Two others in addition to 9/11 -- Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War -- have had a higher percentage following the news very or somewhat closely.

Attention to COVID-19 News Among Highest on Record
How closely are you following news about ...?
Very closely Somewhat closely Not too closely/Not at all
% % %
September 2001
Terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. 77 20 3
March 2020
Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 66 27 7
March 2003
War between U.S. and Iraq 63 32 5
September 2005
Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding of New Orleans 58 38 4

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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