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Most foresee a country forever changed after coronavirus — CBS News poll

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More than half of Americans think day-to-day life in the nation will be permanently changed as a result of the coronavirus. And even more so than last month, many are bracing for a long period before social activities can resume.

Fifty-four percent of Americans think daily life — the way people interact with each other and the way they work — will be permanently changed, while 46% think things will eventually return to normal.


People living in communities that have been significantly impacted by the coronavirus are particularly likely to foresee a country forever changed: 62% of those who say their community has many cases of the coronavirus think life will be permanently changed after the virus is contained.

Views of the future may be related to what people will do in the more near-term. Those who think things will eventually return to normal would be more comfortable going to public places if restrictions were lifted now, than would those who foresee permanent changes to day-to-day life after the outbreak.

Assessments about how U.S. efforts against the virus are going now are related to one's outlook on life in the future. Most who think things are going well right now anticipate life returning to normal, while most  who say efforts are going badly think life in America will be permanently changed.


There are differences by age, with younger people more likely than older people to think life will eventually return to normal. The percentage who expect day-to-day life to be permanently changed increases with age.


Most people don't think the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. will be contained to the point that most activities can return any time soon. And the longer people say it will take to contain, the more they think there will be a lasting imprint on American life.

Even more so than last month, we find many bracing for a long period before the outbreak is contained. Thirty-seven percent say in the next few months, and 43% give a longer time frame or say it never will. Approximately one in five say the virus is already contained or will be in the next few weeks.

And those who don't expect social activities and gatherings to resume for a year or longer are particularly likely to expect day-to-day life to be forever changed.

Those who give shorter time frames tend to be younger and are more likely to say that once the virus is contained, day-to-day life will return to the way it was before the outbreak.

On the other hand, most of those who think the virus will take a year or longer to contain also say life in America will be permanently changed. Most in this group say widespread testing is necessary before opening up the country, and they express more concern over things opening up too fast and the outbreak getting worse than they do over things opening up too slowly and the economy worsening.

There are still noticeable partisan differences in these views. A majority of Democrats now say that it will take longer than a few months, while three in four Republicans tell us the opposite — that the virus will be contained in the next few months or sooner. But even among Republicans, that's a noticeably smaller proportion than it was a month ago, when nine in 10 said containment will occur that soon.

Scientists and medical professionals, as well as political leaders, have been trying to estimate the potential loss of life from the virus and the success of efforts like social distancing and trying to "flatten the curve" of new cases or fatalities. That's been one way to gauge efforts at containment.

For regular Americans gauging the success of the U.S. effort in those terms, many say there have already been too many lives lost for them to consider the effort a success. Another 13% say keeping fatalities under fifty thousand would still represent success, while 23% select a range of fifty to 100 thousand. Still another two in ten say it could be more than that.


These answers are also colored by partisanship. Most Democrats say that there have already been too many lives lost to call efforts a success, while most Republicans give a range of fifty thousand or more.

More see division than unity amid pandemic, but there is near universal pride in health care and essential workers

In its efforts to fight the coronavirus, more feel the country is becoming more divided than united: 42% saying more divided and 27% more united. But nearly all are in agreement in the pride they feel in seeing what those on the front lines are doing, like doctors, nurses and food service workers.


Large majorities across demographic groups and partisan stripes are proud of medical personnel and first responders, food service and transportation workers, and even their fellow Americans for staying home and social distancing.


Americans also believe the social distancing measures are effective against the outbreak.

Neither most Republicans nor most Democrats see unity. But some of that division is evident in assessing how President Trump is responding to the coronavirus. Republicans are proud of how the president is addressing the nation in response to the outbreak, while Democrats are not.

When dealing with states, 52% of Americans think the president has considered a state's needs over partisanship, but four in 10 think he has favored Republican states over Democratic ones. Among those who hold the latter view, more than half think the country is becoming more divided.

There's also partisan division in overall evaluations of how U.S. efforts to fight the virus are going. Most Republicans think it's going well, but most Democrats think it's going badly.


Both Republicans and Democrats are proud of how governors are addressing their states, although Democrats are more likely to feel this way. Far more Republicans are proud of President Trump's response than the governors generally.


This CBS News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 2,112 U.S. residents interviewed between April 20-22, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 presidential vote and registration status. The margin of error is +/- 2.5 points.

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