Poll: Majority of US voters want country to remain closed for now

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A majority of U.S. voters want the country to remain closed as long as there is still a significant number of coronavirus cases, according to a Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey released exclusively to The Hill on Monday. 

Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said that most businesses should remain shuttered and stay-at-home orders should stay in place while the country is dealing with a substantial amount of COVID-19 cases. Another 47 percent said that the U.S. economy should gradually reopen, even if doing so leads to a modest increase in cases.

More than two-thirds of respondents — 68 percent — said that reopening too quickly and risking accelerating the spread of the virus is of greater concern to them, while 32 percent said that they are more worried about a slow reopening that could bring about deeper economic damage.

A growing number of states and localities have taken steps in recent weeks toward reopening their economies and easing restrictions. Some officials, including President Trump, have cheered those developments. Others, however, have warned that doing so could deepen the coronavirus crisis. 

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading member of the White House’s COVID-19 task force, warned members of Congress in testimony last week that reopening the country too quickly could spur a new surge of infections and lead to “some suffering and death that could be avoided.”

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey showed little consensus on exactly how long stay-at-home orders should remain in effect, though a majority of respondents said that it should be a matter of months rather than weeks.

Thirty-two percent of those surveyed said that shelter-in-place policies should remain in effect for another month, while 22 percent said they should stay in place for another two months and 31 percent said three months or longer.

Meanwhile, 9 percent said such policies should remain in effect for another three weeks, 5 percent said two weeks and only 1 percent said shelter-in-place policies should remain for one more week.

“The public is very cautious about the re-opening,” said Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll and an opinion contributor for The Hill. “They see the effects of the virus as primarily economic but they fully support lockdowns as needed. Much of this is that the public is highly uncertain whether things are getting better, worse or the same — they are looking for more direction.”

Still, there is support for limited reopenings. Fifty-five percent of respondents said that stores that use face masks and limit their number of customers should be permitted to reopen.

But the same attitude doesn’t hold true for restaurants, according to the poll. Fifty-nine percent said that restaurants should be limited to takeout and delivery orders for the time being, while 41 percent said that such businesses should be allowed to resume table service as long as they require masks and reduce their customer capacities.

Most Americans are also opposed to colleges and universities holding in-person classes in the fall. Fifty-eight percent said that such institutions should only hold video classes, compared to 42 percent who said that teaching should resume in person.

Even if state and local officials move to reopen businesses and schools in the coming months, a majority of U.S. voters said they might personally stay home. Fifty-five percent said they would continue to work or attend school remotely if their cities or states reopen by July 1. Another 45 percent said they would work or go to school in person. 

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll online survey of 1,854 registered voters was conducted May 13-14. It is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll throughout 2020.

Full poll results will be posted online later this week. The survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.

Tags Anthony Fauci Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll Mark Penn Pandemic reopen stay at home orders

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