April 21, 2020 / 9:17 PM / 2 months ago

Despite scattered protests, most Americans support shelter-in-place, Reuters/Ipsos poll shows

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A bipartisan majority of Americans said they want to continue to shelter in place to protect themselves from the coronavirus, despite the impact to the economy, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll that also showed a decline in approval of Trump’s response to the pandemic.

Protesters walk, holding signs, at a ReOpenNC rally against the state's shut down to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., April 21, 2020. REUTERS/Rachel Jessen

The poll, released Tuesday, suggested that only a minority of Americans agree with the recent flare-up of protests against social-distancing initiatives. Their numbers have been growing over the past few weeks, however, mostly among Republicans.

Overall, in the national online poll from April 15-21, 72% of adults in the United States said people should stay at home ‘until the doctors and public health officials say it is safe.’ That included 88% of Democrats, 55% of Republicans, and seven in 10 independents.

It also found that 45% of Republicans said stay-at-home orders should be lifted to get the economy going again, up from 24% of Republicans who said the same thing in a similar poll that ran March 30-31.

U.S. President Donald Trump has demanded businesses reopen and stay-at-home orders be rescinded, putting him at odds with several state governors. He also announced late Monday that he is suspending all immigration into the United States “in light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy.”

Among U.S. adults, 42% said they approved of Trump’s performance in office, while 52% said they disapproved. The president’s overall popularity has been about the same for more than a year. When asked specifically about Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, 44% approved and 52% disapproved, which is an 8-point drop in net approval since last week and a 13-point drop from last month.

The shutdown - a patchwork of executive orders from governors in many states mandating certain businesses close and people stay at home except for essential trips - has left at least 22 million people unemployed nationwide, the largest number since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The shutdown has spawned a smattering of protests in a handful of states aimed at encouraging state governments to cancel restrictions. Large numbers of the protesters are self-described Trump supporters.

Some state leaders are moving to ease restrictions. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, said certain businesses should reopen Friday. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, a Republican, allowed retail shops and department stores to resume business on Tuesday, albeit with social-distancing measures. Colorado Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, said some businesses could open starting next week, with precautions.

Medical experts warn that easing restrictions before the pandemic is under control could cause a second wave of infections and deaths.

An increasing number of registered voters say they would support Democrat Joe Biden over Trump in the Nov. 3 presidential election. The Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 47% of registered voters said they would vote for Biden, while 39% would vote for Trump. The number of registered voters who said they would vote for Biden has increased by 2 percentage points from a similar poll that ran last week, and by 4 points from a poll that ran two weeks ago.

The poll was conducted during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has infected at least 795,000 people and killed more than 43,000 in the United States.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. The Trump approval and general election questions gathered responses from 4,429 American adults, including 3,806 who identified as registered voters. The question about sheltering in place gathered responses from 1,004 adults, including 452 Democrats and 404 Republicans.

The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of plus or minus 2 percentage points for the approval and election questions, and plus or minus 6 points for the question on sheltering in place.

Reporting by Grant Smith and Chris Kahn, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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