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Protests flared up at state capitols last week as frustration reached a boiling point for Americans forced to stay at home across the country. Activists vented their frustration with the ongoing economic shutdown that has left more than 20% of the nation’s workforce without a means to provide for themselves and their families. The percentage of Americans who will have their careers and livelihoods ruined by the lockdown restrictions is set to surpass that of the Great Depression.
Still, it’s important to recognize that 72% of registered voters believe that the initial lockdowns saved lives and prevented the spread of the coronavirus. However, a new poll commissioned by FreedomWorks and conducted by Scott Rasmussen, shows that public opinion is shifting rapidly in favor of reopening society. Just 51% now believe it is appropriate to continue with the lockdowns. Only 21 percent believe continuing lockdowns for another 60 days will be the safest approach.
The April 24-26 poll of 1,000 registered voters found that voters recognize the isolation imposed by stay-at-home orders carries its own set of health risks. 73% say that it’s important for their mental wellbeing to be able to see people face-to-face again. 61% are concerned about the health risks associated with prolonged isolation.
The awareness comes from firsthand experience. 33% of voters have close friends or family members who have been severely depressed during the lockdown. Additionally, 23% know people close to them who have been drinking too much. On a personal level, 35% have gained weight or experienced other health related problems as a result of the shutdown.
In short, voters recognize that there are health risks no matter what we do. There are one set of risks to continuing the lockdowns and another set of risks associated with easing the lockdown restrictions. It’s not a question of choosing safety or risking your health. It’s a question of trade-offs, and the relative risks are almost certain to shift over time.
In evaluating these risks, 76% of voters are aware that recent data shows that far more people have been infected with COVID-19 than was previously thought. However, just 44% are aware that recent data also demonstrates that COVID-19’s mortality rate is far lower than previously thought. Earlier reports, such as those from the Imperial College of London and the World Health Organization, have proven to be overly pessimistic.
In terms of what we should do next, the divide between those who are aware of the most recent data and those who don’t is enormous. 66% of those who are aware of the declining mortality rates favor easing lockdown restrictions. However, among those who mistakenly believe the fatality rate has not fallen, 71% want to continue the lockdowns.
In other words, the more that Americans learn of the most up-to-date data on COVID-19’s mortality rate, the more likely they are to support reopening American society.
It’s important to note that the survey focused on easing restrictions rather than flipping a switch and ending the lockdowns entirely. This will be a gradual process guided primarily by the willingness of Americans to re-engage in their own social, shopping, and work environments. And, the strong awareness of how widespread the contagion has become will ensure that those who do re-engage will do so with caution and appropriate public health protocols.
In the coming months, it’s a priority that Americans at highest risk to COVID-19 stay home and isolate. Beyond that, though, the most recent scientific data is on the side of Americans who wish to safely and responsibly reopen society. Making sure that Americans are aware of the reduced mortality rate of COVID-19 is particularly important. Facts matter. Americans’ livelihoods depend on it. And the numbers show that if the public was better informed, they would overwhelmingly support a safe and responsible return to the workplace.
Adam Brandon is the president of FreedomWorks. Scott Rasmussen is an independent public opinion pollster who conducted the survey.