Half of all Americans support aggressive steps to slow coronavirus in the U.S.: Reuters poll

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Roughly half of all Americans want the U.S. government to act more aggressively to slow the spread of the coronavirus, such as banning large public gatherings and shutting down all overseas flights, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday.

A man wearing a mask takes photos in Times Square following the outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The poll conducted Monday and Tuesday showed public anxieties have spiked over the last two weeks as the virus has rapidly spread, infecting more than 5,890 people in the United State and killing at least 97.

The government has already barred travel from much of Europe. Many public schools have closed, and theme parks, professional sports leagues and cultural events have been suspended.

Forty-eight percent of U.S. adults now say they consider the coronavirus an “imminent threat” to the country, up 20 percentage points from a similar survey taken March 2-3.

The number of Americans who said the virus has already affected their work or business jumped fivefold over the past two weeks, with 46% now reporting changes at their workplace, including canceled meetings, staff shortages and decreased sales.

To help control the virus’s spread, large proportions of the American public supported broad restrictions on their movements and activities.

Half of all Americans supported a government ban on large gatherings of more than a few hundred people. Forty-six percent want to shut down all overseas flights, while 44% favored closing all public schools.

In addition, 28% said the government should allow doctors to try experimental vaccines and other untested treatments immediately.

While critics have said the Trump administration did not move quickly enough to address the crisis, 47 percent of the Americans polled approved of President Donald Trump’s handling of it - up by about 9 percentage points from the March 2-3 poll.

The survey also showed a jump in the number of Americans taking steps to protect themselves.

Fifty-one percent said they are avoiding physical contact with others, up 33 percentage points from the March 2-3 poll. And 25% have canceled or altered travel plans, up 19 points from before.

Sixteen percent of U.S. adults now work from home and 11% have kept their children home from school, up 11 points and 9 points, respectively.

Only 17% have not altered their daily routine due to the coronavirus, down 32 points from two weeks ago.

A sizable minority of Americans continue to think coronavirus concerns are overblown. About 29% strongly agreed that “people are unnecessarily panicking over the coronavirus” and 30% said the virus is “mostly a problem for people who travel a lot.”

Republicans were generally less likely than Democrats to express concern. Among those saying they strongly agree this is a “panic created by the media over something that isn’t really a big deal for most people,” three in 10 were Republicans and one in 10 were Democrats.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English. It gathered responses from 1,115 adults throughout the United States, and has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 3 percentage points.

For the full poll results: here

Reporting by Chris Kahn; editing by Jonathan Oatis