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Americans Less Negative in Their COVID-19 Outlook

Americans Less Negative in Their COVID-19 Outlook

Story Highlights

  • Percentage in U.S. saying health crisis getting worse is down 14 points
  • Americans are maintaining social distancing despite reduced worries
  • Americans slightly less likely to avoid small gatherings, public places

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' outlook for the coronavirus situation has become less negative in recent weeks, with less than half (47%) now saying the situation is "getting worse." This is down from 61% in mid-August, and is the lowest for this measure since early June, before COVID-19 cases surged along with the loosening restrictions around the country. Meanwhile, higher percentages of Americans describe the situation as "getting better" (30%) or "staying the same" (23%).

Line graph. Americans' perceptions of the COVID-19 situation. In the last half of August 2020, 47% say it is getting worse, 30% getting better and 23% staying the same.

Slightly fewer Americans also report being worried about contracting the virus. The latest percentage of Americans, 53%, who say they are "very" or "somewhat worried" about falling ill from COVID-19 is down from the 55% to 59% range Gallup has recorded since June.

Public concern about the availability of coronavirus tests (35% "very" or "moderately worried") and hospital services (40%) are also down seven to nine points from their high points over the summer. Neither concern, however, has receded to the lower levels seen in June before the resurgence of cases nationally.

Social Distancing Maintained as Worries Decrease

Despite feeling less concerned about the spread of the coronavirus since early August, Americans are not easing up on their social distancing. Seventy-three percent say they have "always" or "very often" practiced social distancing in the past 24 hours -- similar to the 74% to 76% range Gallup recorded in early August. From a longer-term perspective, the percentage practicing social distancing has changed little since May after peaking at 92% in late March/early April.

Additionally, 42% of U.S. adults say they have "completely" or "mostly isolated" themselves from nonhousehold members in the past day. This is also comparable to the level in early August but is down from mid- to late July, when the figure briefly approached 50%.

Line graph. Americans' reports of self-isolation and social distancing in response to COVID-19. 73% of Americans in the last half of August 2020 say they have always or very often practiced social distancing in the past 24 hours. Additionally, 42% say they have completely or mostly isolated themselves from people outside of their households during the same 24-hour period.

Solid majorities of Americans continue to say they have avoided public transportation (73%) and large crowds (74%) in the past week. Both figures have varied little over the course of the summer.

At the same time, Americans have become slightly less likely to say they are avoiding small gatherings of people, such as friends and family. The latest, 47%, reporting this is down from an average of 51% in July and is the lowest Gallup has recorded since March. Similarly, 55% say they have avoided public places such as stores and restaurants, which is on the low end of the range recorded this summer.

Line graph. Americans' reports of having avoided small gatherings and public places. 55% of Americans in the last half of August 2020 say they have avoided public places due to COVID-19 and a further 47% report having avoided small gatherings of people for the same reason.

Use of face masks remains high, with 92% saying they wore one within in the past seven days when outside their home. This is consistent with the 87% to 93% range since July. However, while about seven in 10 (71%) continue to say they "always" wear one in indoor settings outside their home when they can't socially distance, the percentage saying they always wear one in outdoor settings has slipped to a new low of 24%, down from 29% the week prior.

Bottom Line

With the number of new cases of COVID-19 reported daily in the U.S. trending back down, Americans harbor less concern about the pandemic today than at other points this summer when the trends were going the wrong way. Yet they are, for the most part, maintaining their social distancing precautions, perhaps indicating they recognize the value of or have at least become accustomed to them.

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