Despite seeing great risk, Americans slow to make major changes to deal with COVID


New Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index study finds that social distancing continues to decline except for mask use.

Washington DC, July 14, 2020

Fewer Americans report self-quarantining now than any point since the start of the pandemic according to our latest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index. This corresponds with socializing and commercial activity remaining high, if not quite to pre-pandemic levels. However, more Americans see returning to a pre-coronavirus life as a large risk now than at any time since the high-point of the initial wave in mid-April.

Detailed findings:

1. Despite the surge in cases across the South and West, Americans continue to venture out of the home at higher rates and do not re-embrace major social distancing.

  • Fewer than one in five (19%) of Americans report self-quarantining the last week, the lowest level since tracking began at the eve of the outbreak in early March.
  • Just under half of Americans (47%) report visiting friends and relatives in the last week, a third (30%) report going out to eat, and about one in six (16%) visited elderly relatives in the last week – all essentially unchanged from levels in mid-June before the current spike in cases.

2. However, as cases surge, Americans are increasingly seeing normal activities as posing large risks.

  • A third of Americans (33%) see attending in-person gatherings of friends as a large risk to their health. Additionally, over a third (37%) say dining out, just under a third (30%) say going to a salon, and over a quarter (27%) of Americans working remote or temporarily not working say returning to their normal place of employment is a large risk. All are the highest levels since mid to late May.
  • As debate about back-to-school rages, a large majority of parents (71%) say sending their child to school in the fall is a large or moderate risk.

Chart 2

3. Most Americans appear to be embracing mask use as a tool to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

  • As of July, three in five Americans (62%) report wearing a mask at all times when leaving the home with an additional 23% reporting sometimes wearing a mask (85% total). This is the highest level of mask use since tracking began in April.
  • Among the approximately two in five (38%) Americans who do not wear a mask at all times when out of the home…
    • A third (32%) report not being allowed into an establishment without a mask (about 12% of the total population).
    • One in five (21%) report being told to wear a mask by another person (about 8% of the total population), up from 15% at the end of May.

4. As the pandemic continues, public trust in both the federal government and state governments has fallen to a low in this tracking.

  • A third of Americans (32%) have a fair amount or great deal of trust in the federal government to look out after the best interests of their family. This is down from 53% in mid-March.
  • Just over half (55%) trust their state governments, down from 71% in mid-March. Trust in the state government is lowest in the states currently hit the hardest (47% average cross AZ, FL, GA, and TX).

Washington DC, June 30, 2020

As June ends, the latest wave of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index finds that American fears of the coronavirus pandemic have resurged to levels last seen during the acute parts of the initial wave. This comes, however, as Americans continue to leave the home more frequently, albeit while taking protective measures.

Detailed Findings:

1. Levels of concerns have returned to levels last seen in early May as the pandemic spreads across the South and West.

  • Almost two-thirds (60%) of Americans are very concerned about the coronavirus outbreak, with an additional quarter (24%) somewhat concerned.
  • Over three quarters (78%) are at least somewhat concerned about the possibility of getting sick, up 9 points from the beginning of June.
  • Three quarters (76%) are concerned about their community re-opening too soon, the highest level in our tracking.

corona concerns

2. Correspondingly, perceptions of risk also continue to increase, particularly views of activities that may bring the respondent into contact with large groups of people.

  • Over two-thirds (70%) currently say that returning to their pre-COVID life is a moderate or large risk.

3. Risk aversion may also put a damper on the upcoming Fourth of July holiday with 78% saying attending celebrations is a large or moderate risk.

Risky Business

4. Americans have started curtailing social engagement, however the number engaging in out of home commercial activities remains stable or continues to increase.

  • Less than half (45%) of Americans say they visited friends and family in the last week, down from the post-COVID high of 49% last week. Additionally, visiting elderly relatives is flat at 14%.
  • However, going out to eat continues to increase, now with 31% of Americans reporting having done so in the last week. Visiting a salon or retail store is flat from last week.

Washington DC, June 23, 2020

Our latest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index finds that Americans are increasingly concerned about coronavirus and seeing ‘regular’ activities as increasingly risky after sentiment moderated earlier in June. This uptick in fears comes as Americans address a possible second wave and reflect on their potential to re-enter social distance quarantines if major warning thresholds are met.

Detailed Findings:

1. American concern with the coronavirus outbreak, while not as widespread as during early April, has increased notably over the past two weeks.

  • Currently, 85% of Americans are at least somewhat concerned with the outbreak, including 56% who are extremely or very concerned. This is up from 80% and 48% respectively in early June.
  • Concern with communities re-opening too soon (to 71% from 64%) and the possibility of getting sick (to 76% from 69%) are also up 7 percentage points over the last two weeks.
  • Eighty-five percent of Americans are concerned about a second wave of the coronavirus, including 59% who are extremely or very concerned.

2. “Normal” activities are seen as increasingly risky by many including doing their job, going to the grocery store, or socializing with friends after multiple weeks of minimizing concerns.


3. Americans continue to report that if a second wave hits their state, they will substantially withdraw to protect their health. They also express that they are watching for a wide range of signals of a second wave indicating it may not be official announcements that trigger a rebound in behavior.

  • About four in five Americans say they are likely to stay home and avoid others as much as possible if…
    • The CDC issued guidelines for people in their state to stay home.
    • Their state’s governor issued guidelines for people to stay home.
    • There is a new spike in cases in their state.
    • Nearby hospital ICUs report full or near-full capacity.
    • Someone they know tests positive for the virus.
    • Someone they know is dying from the virus.


4. Social distancing behaviors continue to subside, but geographical differences remain in people’s experiences.

  • Half of Americans (49%) visited friends or relatives in the last week, up from 47% last week and 19% in early April. However, in the states with the greatest increase in cases (AZ, FL, SC) socializing with friends has declined from 52% to 44% in the last two weeks.
  • The number of Americans working remotely has also begun to decline, this week at 37% of all employed persons from 43% last week.

5. One percent of the U.S. population has tested positive for coronavirus at this point.

  • About one in ten Americans have been tested (11%) and about one in ten (9%) of those tested, tested positive, equal to about 1% of the overall population.

Washington DC, June 16, 2020

At the end of our third month of tracking America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index finds that even while Americans are increasingly engaging with each other outside the home, concerns about a second wave and perceived risks of regular activities mount.

Detailed Findings:

1. More Americans are very concerned about the overall COVID-19 outbreak than last week as a majority express high levels of concern about a second wave of the coronavirus.

  • Fifty-four percent of Americans are extremely or very concerned about the outbreak, up from 48% last week, while 56% report being extremely or very concerned about a second wave.
  • Sixty-four percent view returning to their pre-COVID life as risky right now, up from 57% last week.

2. If there is a second wave, large majorities of Americans report that they are likely to pull back into more socially distancing behaviors.

  • Two-thirds (65%) say they are somewhat or very likely to self-quarantine in the event of a second wave in their state and almost all (85%) report they will take steps to social distance.
  • This extends to social interactions – 79% report they are likely to stop gathering with friends or family – and commercial behavior – 73% report they would stop going to non-grocery retail stores.

3. As discussion of a second wave mounts, Americans report seeing many ‘normal’ activities as being more risky than just a week ago.

  • The number of Americans who report viewing gatherings of friends and family as risky has climbed 5 percentage points from last week (57% moderate or large risk from 52%).
  • Additionally, views of dining in at a restaurant (64% risky from 60%), shopping at a retail store (57% risky from 52%), or going to a barber or salon (58% risky from 54%) have all increased this week.
  • Large gatherings remain highly suspect with 89% viewing attending protests and 74% viewing attending Fourth of July celebrations as a risk to their health or well-being.


4. Over a third of Americans know someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

  • While 35% know someone who has tested positive, it remains more prevalent in the Northeast (53%) than other parts of the country.
  • Nine percent of Americans report they have been tested for coronavirus in our latest survey. Of those, 6% say they tested positive. This represents about 0.6% of the U.S. population.


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