/Partisan divide over social distancing narrows as states ramp up coronavirus measures, poll finds

Partisan divide over social distancing narrows as states ramp up coronavirus measures, poll finds

WASHINGTON – Despite an earlier partisan divide among Americans who were taking social distancing measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, most are now taking at least some precautions, a new poll found.

A Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll released Thursday found 92% of people surveyed said they had practiced at least some social distancing measures, up from the 59% who said the same two weeks earlier, when KFF last surveyed Americans.

Of those who identified as Democrats, 95% said they were taking some precautions such as staying home from school or work, changing travel and canceling plans to attend large gatherings. That is compared to 91% of independents and 91% of Republicans who took the same precautions. The partisan gap is way down since the last survey earlier in March, when 80% of Democrats said they were taking one of the social distancing measures, while 68% of independents and 53% of Republicans said they were taking some measures.

The findings come as President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force has extended its guidelines for slowing the spread through the end of April. An increasing number of states have also implemented mandatory distancing measures such as stay-at-home orders and school closures.

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The death toll from the virus has reached over 5,000 in the United States, while the number of infected individuals is more than 220,000. The White House said Tuesday between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans could succumb to the virus by the end of the year, and that without intervention strategies, as many as 2.2 million could have died.  

The poll also found about eight in 10 Americans surveyed said they had trust in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci for reliable coronavirus information. While slightly less than half said they trusted the news media or Trump. Trust in the latter two sources is widely split along party lines.

The KFF poll also found that 72% of Americans say their lives have been disrupted due to the pandemic. About four in 10 of those surveyed said they had either lost their job or seen a reduced income because of the impact of COVID-19. And about six in 10 reported stocking up on essential items like food and household supplies.

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Forty-five percent said the stress or worry related to coronavirus had at least a minor impact on their mental health, compared to 32% in the previous poll. 

The president has warned that the closed economy and job losses could exacerbate mental health issues for Americans, even resulting in increased suicides. Suicide prevention experts say it’s reasonable to expect the current pandemic will lead to increased suicide risk for certain populations, as social isolation and economic ramifications persist.

About three-quarters of poll respondents said they thought the worst of the pandemic was ahead, with just 13% saying the worst is behind Americans.

While most said they worry about the economy, an 80% majority said Americans should prioritize measures to slow the spread over reopening businesses to get the economy going again. However, Republicans (68%) and independents (78%) were less likely to prioritize curbing the virus over the economy than Democrats (94%).

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KFF’s survey of 1,226 U.S. adults was conducted March 25-30, and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. The margin of error for the breakdown of results by party is 6 percentage points for Republicans, Democrats and independents.