Poll: Coronavirus fears dampen sentiment about the economy


Voters remain bullish about the state of the economy but there are warning signs that the coronavirus outbreak is causing new anxieties, according to a new poll.

The latest Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll found that 70 percent of voters believe the economy is strong, a 4 point decline from the same poll last month.

When voters were asked if they expect a recession in the next six months, 41 percent said they believe the economy will remain the same, 37 percent said they expect a recession and 23 percent said the economy would improve.

That marked a 6-point jump in the number of voters who expect a recession.

“The poll was taken as the public was learning of the virus and they remain optimistic about the economy but concerns are growing about a possible recession and that will affect the political landscape,” said Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll.

The stock market indices plunged last week amid fears about contagion from the coronavirus. Markets again slid sharply Tuesday, after a recovery Monday, even after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates by 50 basis points.

The slide in stocks Tuesday came as Washington state health officials reported three more deaths from the coronavirus, increasing the number of fatalities to nine.

Forty-nine percent of voters said the economy is on the right track, compared to 41 percent who said it’s on the wrong track. 

And President Trump’s approval rating is holding steady near its high at 47 percent favorable and 53 percent unfavorable.

Still, the coronavirus fears are weighing heavily on the minds of voters.

Seventy-two percent said they’ve heard a lot about the outbreak and a slim majority, 52 percent, said they expect widespread cases to develop in the U.S.

Forty-four percent of voters said fears over the coronavirus are warranted, while 35 percent say it’s been overblown and 21 percent say people are not worried enough about it.

Meanwhile, 82 percent of voters said they support a quarantine in cities that are hit hard by the virus and 79 percent said they’d support halting immigration if the virus becomes a pandemic.

“The public is willing to endorse fairly extreme measures to control the virus as concern about it grows. School and work closings — whatever it takes,” Penn said.

This survey was conducted online within the United States from February 26-28, 2020 among 2,592 registered voters by The Harris Poll. Results were weighted for age within gender, region, race/ethnicity, marital status, household size, income, employment, education, political party, and political ideology where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2 percent.

Penn is an opinion contributor for The Hill.

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