The majority of Americans do not see life returning to normal due to covid-19 within half a year, even as states begin to relax social distancing measures and businesses begin to reopen. A recent NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist Poll shows 65% of Americans think a return to normal life after coronavirus will take six months or more, while just 32% believe their lives will return to normal within six months.
A split is forming in public polling, between those optimistic and pessimistic about recovery. While there are many variables at play that impact outlook, political party, gender, race, and education level are important factors in optimism or pessimism about a return to normal life. Religion and parenthood are also emerging as important factors in pessimism or optimistic for recovery.
College-educated women are one of the most pessimistic groups about life returning to normal, with 70% saying a return to normal will take more than six months compared to 68% of college educated men, 66% of men without a college degree, and 64% of women without a college degree. Hispanics are also disproportionately optimistic compared to other ethnic groups. Forty-two percent of Hispanics versus 30% of Whites and 25% of African Americans state they think life will return to normal within six months.
Heart and Mind Strategies has been tracking public opinion on the coronavirus for the past nine weeks, offering insights into the concerns of various groups. Recent research sheds light onto the disproportionate impact of covid on working parents, likely a contributing factor to college-educated females’ pessimism about a return to normal. Their data also cites the important role of faith in those hopeful about recovery, which could help explain the positive outlook among Hispanics.
Covid has been hard on everyone, but disproportionately life-altering for working parents
Heart and Mind found that working parents and those with children at home reported higher feelings of stress across a range of issues, including financial stability, quality of work, and physical wellbeing, as shown below.
What’s more, one-third of parents do not anticipate their child returning to school within the next 6 months, and almost 50% of working parents believe traditional schooling won’t be an option and working parents will have to sacrifice to care for their children while maintaining an income, as shown below.
For working parents, particularly working women, the constant struggle to balance parenthood and work is taking a toll. This may explain in part the lack of hope for a return to normal among college-educated women. For working parents, a return to work necessitates schools reopening, and many states are unable to give finite dates.
Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation also found 57% of mothers and 32% of fathers of children under 18 say their mental health has deteriorated due to covid. Women report more stress due to covid than men. Thirty-six percent of women vs. 27% of men say the stress of covid has negatively impacted their mental health, as shown below.
Hispanics are optimistic, and religion could be a big factor
Despite the highest unemployment rate of any ethic group during covid, at 18.9%, Latinos are significantly more optimistic about a rapid economic recovery compared to both Blacks and Whites. Why? It is possible that religious practice plays a role. Hispanics have one of the highest rates of religious practice, with only 6% saying they do not believe in God according to the Pew Research Center.
Heart and Mind Strategies recently found that among those hopeful about the future despite the coronavirus, faith plays a key role. Religious belief is the second highest category cited by hopeful people. Forty-six percent of hopeful respondents say they are naturally hopeful people, and 41% say their faith and religious beliefs help them remain hopeful. Forty-one percent also say they are hopeful because they think the coronavirus could spark positive change, and 38% think it is better for their own wellbeing and that of others to remain hopeful. Below are the reasons cited by hopeful respondents for their optimistic outlook.
Economy is top concern for Republicans and healthcare is top concern for Democrats
Polling from a variety of sources continues to underscore the important role political party plays in views about the coronavirus and priorities for recovery. Republicans, and individuals who are more likely to lean right – men, rural and blue-collar individuals, and those without a college degree – are significantly more optimistic about a rapid economic recovery. Democrats, women, urbanites and college graduates are significantly less so.
Recent Marist polling shows 78% of Democrats think recovery will take more than six months, versus 55% of Republicans and 68% of Independents, Sixty-eight percent of women say a return to normal will be greater than six months compared to 62% of men. The same poll shows almost 70% of big-city dwellers think recovery will take more than six months, but only 60% of rural residents think so. And in terms of education, 70% of college graduates think recovery will take longer than six months versus 62% of non-college graduates.
Recent Kaiser Family Foundation polling shows a similar partisan divide in behavior as state economies begin to reopen. Republicans are more likely to say they will attend gatherings with families and friends, eat in a restaurant, and see their doctors and dentists compared to Democrats and Independents. The same poll found that come election time, the economy will be front and center for Republicans, while healthcare will be a pivotal issue for Democrats. As shown below, the economy is a priority for 40% of Republicans and only 13% of Democrats, while healthcare is a priority for 32% of Democrats and only 11% of Republicans. What’s more, 29% of Democrats versus 6% of Republicans say the coronavirus itself will be a defining issue come election time.
Groups that tend to lean Democrat are taking a bleaker view of economic recovery and simultaneously prioritizing healthcare over the economy. However, their reasons are nuanced. Higher educated women, many of whom are presumably balancing work and parenthood, are understandably concerned about returning to business as usual if work resumes but school does not. Meanwhile, Republican-leaning groups are both more optimistic about a rapid recovery, and more likely to personally engage in behavior that aids in an economic recovery.