Coronavirus impacts: Disrupted lives, elevated stress and soaring worry

(NEW YORK) — The coronavirus crisis weighs heavily on the American public: Seventy-seven percent in an ABC News/Washington Post poll say their lives have been disrupted, seven in 10 report personal stress and as many are worried that they or an immediate family member may become infected.

Forty-one percent in this national survey, conducted Sunday through Wednesday, say someone in their own community has been diagnosed with the new coronavirus; one in 10 (11%) personally knows someone who has been diagnosed with the disease.


Testing remained an issue at the time of these interviews; 44% said there were people in their area who wanted a test but couldn’t get one. Reported unavailability of tests rises to 58% among those who reported diagnosed cases in their community, vs. 35% of those with no known local cases.

Personal concerns are amplified by painful economic disruption. As reported Thursday, the poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that one in three Americans say they or an immediate family member have been laid off or lost their job as a result of the pandemic, and 51% report a cut in pay or work hours. Ninety-two percent expect a recession.

In the political arena, President Donald Trump’s overall job approval rating advanced to his best on record in ABC/Post polls, 48%, even as 58% say he acted too slowly in the early days of the outbreak. This is the first time since he took office that Trump’s approval rating has exceeded disapproval of his work, 46% (though the difference isn’t statistically significant).

Fifty-one percent approve specifically of Trump’s handling of the outbreak; 45% don’t.

That said, there are substantial risks to the president. Trump’s overall approval rating drops among people who are more worried about catching the coronavirus, report severe local economic impacts, say their lives have been especially disrupted or know someone who’s caught the virus. He also has lower approval in states with higher per-capita infection rates.

Some of this relates to the demographics of the affected states, and some reflect greater levels of apprehension among Trump’s critics. Nonetheless, the results suggest that as the crisis deepens, the risks to views of his performance likely rise.

Two comparisons underscore the extent of the crisis on a personal level. The number of adults who report experiencing stress as a result of the pandemic (70%) exceeds the highest level of stress caused by the Great Recession as measured in ABC/Post polls (61% in March 2009). And the 69% who are worried about infection in their immediate family far surpasses the highest level of such fears in past epidemics, 52% for swine flu in October 2009.

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