Americans split, at best, on contact tracing via cellphones: poll

Americans split, at best, on contact tracing via cellphones: poll
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Americans are split on whether they would use a voluntary cellphone-based contact tracing system established by public health officials to help stem the spread of coronavirus, according to a new Axios-Ipsos poll, but broadly opposed to using one developed by tech companies, the federal government or internet providers.

Fifty-one percent of respondents said they were very or somewhat likely to use a system developed by public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared to 48 percent who said they were not at all or not very likely to use one.

Sixty-three percent said they were not at all or not very likely to use a system developed by cellphone and internet providers, while 35 percent said they were very or somewhat likely to participate. Sixty-six percent said they were not at all or not very likely to use one developed by major tech companies, compared to 33 percent who said they were very or somewhat likely to use one.

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Respondents were least likely to participate in a system developed by the federal government, with 68 percent saying they were not at all or not very likely to do so, compared to 31 percent who said they were very or somewhat likely to.

"The whole concept of American democracy is about local control and civil liberties, individual liberties," Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs, told Axios. “At the end of the day, I think there will be an American solution to contact tracing," but if the survey results are any guide, "it's not going to be a centralized authority saying, 'And now we're going to have contact tracing.'"

Public health officials are currently in the process of training thousands of people to conduct contact tracing, while tech companies such as Google have touted software that could potentially automatically track contacts through cellphone data, but found few takers among state and local governments.

The survey was conducted among 980 adults from May 8-11. It has a 3.4-point margin of error.