By Zach Hrynowski of Gallup,
60% of Americans believe pandemic is getting worse in U.S.
38% say they worry about the availability of COVID-19 tests
Majority of Americans still worried about contracting COVID-19
Sixty percent of Americans now say they believe the coronavirus situation in the U.S. is getting worse, a decline of 13 percentage points since mid-July. Meanwhile, 22% — up from 15% in mid-July — say the situation is getting better, while 17% say it is staying the same.
In Gallup polling the week of July 13-19, 73% of Americans said they believed the pandemic was getting worse, the highest level Gallup has yet recorded. At the time, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases was 66,000 per day. By Aug. 9, the seven-day average had declined to fewer than 54,000 new cases per day, which may partially account for Americans’ improved outlook.
All Political Parties More Optimistic, Though Significant Gaps Remain
Democrats, Republicans and independents are all less likely now than in mid-July to say the situation is getting worse, although vast party differences remain.
Republicans are now nearly twice as likely to say the situation is getting better rather than worse. In July, they were evenly divided.
The nine-point decrease among Democrats in the “getting worse” category has largely shifted to the “staying the same” response, which has increased by eight points over that period. Nine in 10 Democrats still say the situation is getting worse.
Independents are now eight points less likely to say the situation is getting worse; this decrease is split equally among those who believe the situation is improving and those who believe it is staying about the same.
Worries About Testing, Availability of Medical Services Improving
Beyond increased confidence that the overall coronavirus situation is improving, Americans are also less concerned than they were in mid-July about the availability of hospital supplies and services, and COVID-19 tests. Forty-two percent of Americans are now worried about hospital capacity, and 38% say they worry about the availability of coronavirus tests.
Concerns about hospital services were lower through most of June — and concerns about COVID-19 testing through early July — likely reflecting the lower overall incidence of coronavirus in the American population at that time. As the number of cases began to spike in mid-July, hospitals began nearing capacity in certain regions, and demand for testing surged. Now, with cases again on the decline and more than 70 million tests administered in the United States, Americans’ confidence in their ability to obtain medical services and testing is once more trending in a positive direction.
The percentage of Americans worried about getting COVID-19 has declined slightly in recent weeks. Currently, 55% say they are very or somewhat worried about getting the virus. That compares with 58% in mid-July.
This recent decline may not indicate a coming trend, however, as Americans’ concern about personally contracting the coronavirus has been relatively stable from the time COVID-19 emerged as a public health threat. Since Gallup began collecting data about the coronavirus, the percentage of Americans worried they will become ill with the virus has never risen above 59%, nor has it dropped below 46%.
While perceptions of the pandemic’s trajectory are currently heading in a more positive direction, Americans’ overall negative outlook and the large partisan gulf in views suggest that COVID-19 will continue to play a role in the November 2020 presidential campaign. Slight declines in Americans’ worry about hospital capacity and the availability of testing may be a good sign for President Donald Trump, who often emphasizes that the United States has conducted more coronavirus tests than any other country in the world. This is further borne out in Trump’s approval ratings, which rebounded by three points in July to 41%, after dropping 11 points between May and June.
Still, 60% of Americans believe the coronavirus situation is getting worse and 55% worry about contracting the virus themselves. Trump’s prospects in November will likely be tied to further easing public anxiety, as well as his ability to create more positive momentum in key policy areas such as testing and hospital capacity.