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Fortune poll: A whopping 75% of Americans are worried the coronavirus pandemic will hurt the economy

March 12, 2020, 3:34 PM UTC
NYSE March 12 Market Coronavirus
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Brendan McDermid—Reuters

Welcome to the inaugural Fortune Analytics newsletter.

I’m Lance Lambert, Fortune’s associate data editor.

You’re receiving this newsletter as a benefit of your Fortune subscription. Thank you for supporting our journalism.

Here’s what to expect.

Each week, I’ll present you with our exclusive research on the most discussed topics in the business world right now.

Our findings come from surveys we run or proprietary data we collect and analyze. Here are some surveys we’ve already done of more than 50,000 American consumers, executives, and investors:

In our first edition, we’re talking coronavirus.

The coronavirus outbreak is getting bleaker: Cases are rising, containment looks unsuccessful, and the WHO has named it a pandemic. The economic impact is causing mounting losses on Wall Street—ending the 11-year bull market.

How concerned are Americans about COVID-19? Following the market plunge on Monday—the biggest percentage drop in the Dow Jones since 2008—Fortune and SurveyMonkey teamed up to poll 2,111 Americans between March 9 and 10*. We asked for their thoughts on the coronavirus outbreak’s effect on travel, markets, and the economy.


The numbers to know


  • … of Americans are worried that they or a relative will be exposed to coronavirus. Only 44% of Americans over age 65 are worried, despite making up an at-risk population, versus 54% of Americans age 25 to 44.


  • … of Americans are worried the coronavirus will have a negative economic effect on the U.S. That number is higher among Democrats (85%) than Republicans (67%).


  • … of Americans who were planning trips domestically are either likely to cancel plans (30%) or have already canceled (18%).



  • … of investors say now—despite Monday’s historic drop—is a good time to be investing in the stock market. That number is 73% among Republicans and 40% among Democrats.



The big picture

For our respondents, the coronavirus is a serious threat to the economy—a whopping 3 in 4 fear the virus will have a negative impact. Life as they know it is changing: Nearly half of them are reconsidering their domestic travel plans and almost 2 in 3 are reconsidering international ones. They’re coming to terms with the prospect that the outbreak may end the longest economic expansion in the country’s history.

But there is a silver lining, however faint: More than 6 in 10 Americans with money invested in stocks told Fortune-SurveyMonkey that they think now is a good time to be in the stock market. Our poll was conducted following a historically big stock market plunge, and many people may consider buying the dip. (Is that really a good idea or not? Decide for yourself.)


A few deeper takeaways

At-risk Americans are the least concerned with the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes older adults among those at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. Yet out of the age groups surveyed, those over the age of 65 are the least concerned with being exposed to the virus. Those who are between the ages of 25 to 44 are most concerned.

“Younger Americans are more concerned than older people about the dangers of COVID-19, and they’re far more likely to have taken actions to protect themselves,” writes Karen Harris, a managing director of Bain & Company’s Macro Trends Group. Bain & Company published a report this week that also found older Americans to be less concerned.

Americans see the outbreak hurting the economy—and Democrats are more worried than Republicans.

It seems just about everything these days breaks down along political lines—even pandemics. Around 3 in 10 Republicans aren’t worried about COVID-19 impacting the economy, compared to only over 1 in 10 Democrats who say the same thing. Many more Republicans are optimistic about investing in the markets, too.

A separate SurveyMonkey poll fielded last week found 62% of Republicans view COVID-19 news reports as “generally exaggerated,” double the number of Democrats (31%) who thought the same.

That said, the majority of Republicans still worry this virus will have a negative impact on the economy. And they have good reason, when nearly 75% of firms report the outbreak has disrupted their supply chains, according to an Institute for Supply Management survey published Wednesday.


As the virus spreads, Fortune Analytics will continue to take a pulse on what Americans are thinking.

In the meantime, I’d love to know what you think of the newsletter. Email me with feedback at

Lance Lambert

*Methodology: The Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll was conducted among a national sample of 2,111 adults in the U.S. between March 9 to 10. This survey’s modeled error estimate is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The findings have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography.