America’s Hidden Common Ground on the Coronavirus

April 3, 2020

America’s Hidden Common Ground on the Coronavirus: Results from a Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos Snapshot Survey

According to a new Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos Hidden Common Ground Survey, Americans are aligned on the large threat that COVID-19 poses to the United States, the stock market and the global economy, as well as the steps the government should take to help businesses and people affected. Though Americans see the virus as less of a threat to them or to their community, they are using this time to rally around local businesses, neighbors, and their friends and family.  

Three quarters or more believe the coronavirus crisis poses a very high or high threat to the global economy (78%), the United States as a whole, and the stock market (74% each). Of these, four in ten say the crisis poses a very high threat to the global economy and the United States (41% and 40%, respectively). 

This is in stark contrast to the threat Americans believe the crisis poses to them on a local level. Two-thirds (65%) say the threat to them personally is moderate to low, and more than half (52%) believe it is a moderate to low threat to their communities overall. Similarly, Americans are cautiously optimistic about the short-term effects on their communities. More than half (53%) believe their communities will suffer in the short-term but recover in the long-term. Only 3% think their communities will never recover. Eighteen percent of Americans say their community will emerge stronger than ever. 

A sense of community is evident in people’s behaviors since the crisis began. Americans are coming together to support local businesses (69%) and contacting friends and family more than they usually do (66%). In fact, six in ten (59%) have forsaken new technology by calling close friends and family whom they would normally text or IM. Nearly half (48%) have checked in on elderly or sick neighbors. More than a quarter of Americans (28%) have donated money, supplies or time to help people in their community and 55% also say they are likely to donate in the next two weeks, demonstrating a growing desire to help those around them. 

There are additional signs that Americans’ support for each other will increase in the coming weeks. Eighty-two percent say it is likely they will support local businesses in the next two weeks, and around three quarters will contact friends and family more than usual (77%) or call them instead of text/IM (72%). Sixty percent plan to check in on elderly or sick neighbors. 

There is considerable common ground but a few points of tensions in how people view the federal government’s priorities and performance

Regarding the role of the federal government, nearly nine in ten would support free coronavirus testing for all who need it (89%). Strong majorities of Americans support the federal government mandating that manufacturing, tech and other industries shift production towards making supplies to fight the virus (73%). More than two-thirds also support the federal government mandating that the pharmaceutical industry shift all possible resources towards research and producing treatments and vaccines (68%).

Regarding help to individuals and families, there is strong support for the federal government providing businesses with no-interest loans so they can continue paying employees during the crisis (87%), providing direct cash payments to all Americans who need it (79%), and passing paid sick-leave legislation (79%). 

In terms of keeping businesses whole during the crisis, 73 percent of Americans say the federal government should equally distribute aid to small, medium and large businesses. 

When it comes to attitudes toward the federal government, however, there are significant partisan differences. For example, significantly more Democrats (80%) say the main priority of the government should be preventing the virus from spreading further, compared to 64% of Republicans. A greater share of Republicans (29%) than Democrats (14%) say that the government’s main priority should be protecting the economy and avoiding a recession. Among those who say that the government’s main priority should be to prevent further spread of the virus, more Democrats (71%) than Republicans (53%) would still feel that way even if it meant local small businesses in their community would go out of business. 

While these partisan differences are statistically significant, it should still be noted that majorities of both Democrats and Republicans agree the main priority of the government should be preventing the virus from spreading further.  In fact, there is strong agreement among Americans overall (83%) that “we should reboot the economy slowly and carefully to avoid spreading the virus and endangering lives,” including 81 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats who agree.

Larger partisan differences exist on the federal government’s performance and priorities in responding to the pandemic. For example, many more Republicans (74%) than Democrats (33%) say the federal government is doing everything it can to address the coronavirus crisis. Many more Republicans (75%) than Democrats (30%) also say that the federal government is doing a good job of balancing concerns about the economy with concerns about health. On the other hand, most Democrats (85%) think that the federal government is more likely to help big businesses survive than small businesses, compared to only 42% of Republicans who think so. 

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More and more we hear about how Americans have become so divided that we cannot possibly understand one another, let alone find common ground or work together toward common ends. Based on our 40 years of public opinion research and hands-on community engagement experience we beg to differ. Continue reading

Hidden Common Ground 2020 Initiative

A self-defeating narrative is taking hold in America of a people who are so profoundly divided that we cannot possibly understand each other, let alone find common ground and work together to achieve common ends. This narrative of a hopelessly divided nation impedes progress on public problems by obscuring areas of genuine agreement across partisan and other lines, a problem that Public Agenda, USA Today and other partners aim to address through our Hidden Common Ground 2020 Initiative. Continue reading


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How to give back to your community during the pandemic (Rice University News and Media Relations, April 24, 2020)

New Vision Council Report Reveals Consumer Attitudes and Industry Insights About COVID-19 Crisis (Vision Monday, April 20, 2020)

The coronavirus on Smart Talk Monday: End of life decisions and survey finds Americans on ‘common ground’ (WITF, April 13, 2020)

Like Jesus on Easter, we too will rise. After we beat the coronavirus. (USA TODAY Opinion, April 10, 2020)

Surveys on Coronavirus Impact Underscore Near-Term Challenges (SGB Media, April 7, 2020)

Bishops can do more to provide sacraments despite coronavirus fears, open letter claims (Catholic News Agency, April 7, 2020)

COVID-19 Bringing Communities Together (The 21st Show, April 6, 2020)

Survey: COVID-19 Brings U.S. Communities Together (Iowa Public Radio, April 6, 2020)

Poll: Americans choose saving lives over saving US economy (Rolla Daily News, April 4, 2020)

Despite Hardships, Americans See COVID-19 Bringing Communities Together, Survey Shows (Side Effects, April 3, 2020)

Poll: Halting Virus Is Bigger Priority Than Saving Economy (Newsmax, April 3, 2020)

Most believe stopping virus is larger priority than saving economy: poll (The Hill, April 3, 2020)

Poll: Americans Choose Saving Lives Over US Economy (Media Confidential, April 3, 2020)

Coronavirus poll: Americans support drastic efforts to stop coronavirus, expect crisis to last for months in Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos poll (USA TODAY, April 3, 2020)