American optimism on the rise even as virus becomes more prevalent

Jan Clever, 81, center, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., waves a U.S. flag while wearing a protective mask during a demonstration against California’s stay-at-home orders. (Watchara Phomicinda/The Orange County Register via Courthouse News)

(CN) — The number of Americans who are very concerned their family members will contract the novel coronavirus has declined even as more individuals, particularly racial minorities, express fear about the outbreak and 40% of Americans report knowing someone who has the respiratory disease.

As of Monday, at least 79,935 Americans have died after getting sick from the virus and more than 1,340,000 have tested positive, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

But according to a Monmouth University poll conducted as U.S. states begin reopening parts of their economies, 42% of Americans said they’re very concerned a family member will become seriously ill from the novel coronavirus. That figure is down from 50% who expressed this level of concern in an April poll.

Fewer Americans also reported feeling very hopeful (63%) that their families’ lives will go back to normal after the pandemic than did in April (69%).

Monday’s poll of 808 adults in the United States found 28% are somewhat concerned family members could get ill from Covid-19, while 14% said they’re not too concerned and 16% are not concerned at all.

More than half of Americans say the outbreak has had a major impact on their daily lives, the poll found, though the figure is down from 62% in April. The decline in concern levels is steady across Democratic, Republican and independent voters.

“Concern about [Covid-19] seems to have returned to where it was in the early days of the public response to the pandemic in this country,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement Monday.

Reports of decreased concern about viral spread come as 40% of survey respondents say they know someone who has contracted Covid-19, up 14 points from the April poll.

More Americans this month (14%) also reported having a family member who has gotten the deadly virus than did in April (7%), the poll found.

Levels of stress around the financial toll the pandemic has had on American families — and fears about income and status — have not changed from April, according to the poll. Half of the respondents expressed some level of confidence the country will limit the outbreak’s impact over the coming weeks.

“The drop in feeling a major impact may be partly due to the fact that things have stabilized for most families after taking a hit in April,” said Murray.

But about one in five Americans, 23%, say they’re having trouble affording basic living expenses such as bills, a figure that remains mostly unchanged from last month. Another 13% say their financial situation is improving from last month, the poll found.

The poll asked, “Thinking about your current financial situation, would you say you are struggling to remain where you are financially, basically stable in your current financial situation, or is your financial situation improving?”

Murray said in the statement the survey found Americans maintain an optimistic outlook on an economic recovery from the pandemic.

“Americans seem to be differentiating between the short-term hit and their long-term prospects,” said Murray. “Most expect that they will be back on their feet once the pandemic has passed, although this number has slipped a bit in the past month.”

The poll was conducted by telephone between April 30 and May 4 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.